One of the biggest pieces of advice I would give my younger self, especially in my teens and twenties, is to stop the comparison to others who I felt had “more” than me: more money, better looking, more sophisticated, smarter, gutsier, etc. – believe me, I could come up with plenty! Whether it was my smart and pretty best friend or the featured model in Seventeen Magazine, I was always able to find someone to place my focus of comparison on that would assure me I couldn’t possibly measure up. What a crazy pattern for self-destruction, and yet, I kept it up for years.
Of course, some people do have more than us but we, in turn, have more than some others. This is why, to me, comparison to others is such an exercise in futility and self-shaming. Something that really struck me regarding why comparison to others never works, was upon hearing my mentor Mary Morrissey say, “We compare our insides to other people’s outsides.” We know exactly where to find every undesirable element in ourselves, while observing only the outer shell of the person we compare ourselves to, imagining that we have the full picture. It’s just not possible.
We can start to put an end to comparisons by noticing when we denigrate ourselves in comparison to another. I recommend taking it a step further and writing down your comparisons. Examples: “I’m not as pretty as ______, I’m not attractive as _____, I’m not as athletically fit as _______, My house is not at nice as _______’s house…” We could come up with quite a list, couldn’t we? With the only outcome being to point out how badly we’re missing the mark. By seeing these crazy things written on a page, we can awaken to the cruelty we’re inflicting on our psyche and confidence, something we would never do to a loved one. Next, we can create “antidote phrases” that empower rather than deflate us. For example, using the comparison “I am not as attractive as my friend,” we can switch to an empowering phrase such as, “I am beautiful from the very core of me.” After writing down the critical comparisons, become quiet to create your antidote phrase or phrases. If you can’t come up with any on your own, borrow some. Say them aloud, even if you feel inauthentic at first. By repetition, we are re-wiring our thoughts. Noticing when negative comparisons creep back in, gives us the opportunity to filter them out and replace them once again with antidote phrases.
When we beat ourselves up, believing we should be more like someone else, the world misses out on our authentic gifts, found only in traveling our own path. Shortly after I learned my marriage would be ending, directly after a year of cancer surgeries and related treatment, my friend hosted an evening of art for a few friends, including me. The exercise was to portray all we’d love to experience in our lives. She laid out large sheets of sketch paper and colored pencils. At a certain point, I felt possessed by a deep longing and began to create. Around the edges of the paper, I drew pictures of all I wanted in place of the loss I was experiencing. Under each little picture, I wrote a small description of what the drawing represented. I drew pictures of a beautiful home, travel to fun places, meeting wonderful people, a balance of time for all I love, plenty of wealth to indulge myself and others, and divine guidance to serve my purpose. In the center of all the little pictures around the frame, I drew a pink heart with a diamond radiating from its center. Under it, I wrote Let my true self shine for all to see and feel. This might have been the first time I expressed a heartfelt desire to allow my authentic self to take the lead. I finally understood that what was inside me was more magnificent that who I had been trying to be.
There is a “secret sauce” inside each one of us that no one else has. It may be that you would love to do what another is doing, but you wouldn’t really do it exactly the same, would you? For example, as a life coach, I am deeply inspired by Mary and my fellow life coaches, but we each have our own way of serving our clients, our own frequency that we operate from, even though the material we master can be quite similar. No one else can give exactly what you came here to give. That is why you are here! It’s for you to do! Comparison can take us off track from that. Sitting on my desk is a little placard that I picked up in the gift shop at Walden Pond. The minute I saw it, I felt it was for me. It reads: “If I am not I, who will be?” (Attributed to Henry David Thoreau’s journal entry dated August 9, 1841).
Teddy Roosevelt said it best: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Let your true self shine for all to see and feel.