“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt
It’s time to get real. Admit it – you are a comparison junkie. It starts off harmlessly enough: the person next to you in yoga class is super fit and is rocking her headstand like nobody’s business and you think “Wow – she is so strong!” But it doesn’t stop there. It begins to build and build and comparison morphs into judgement – of others and of yourself: “I wonder how long she’s been practicing yoga. Why can’t I get into a headstand? I need to step up my practice. I bet she takes private lessons. How does she have so much time for yoga? I shouldn’t even be in this class; I’m not good enough.” And boom – you went from celebrating the success and beauty in someone else to crazytown with judgements all around. We’ve all been there and it takes a lot of work to reset our default button.
“Comparison is an act of violence against the self”. – Iyanla Vanzant
Why do we compare?
One word: ego. The sole job of our ego is to keep us small, separate, and in fear. And the best way to do that is with a one-way ticket on the comparison train. Comparison by definition creates separation. Either you are better than someone else or someone else is better than you. It’s not a celebration. It’s an attack. We compare because our ego is fighting for its survival and it has a loud voice and a lot of persistence. We compare because we are afraid. Afraid of removing our walls and stepping out into the world as our authentic selves.
Doesn’t comparison help us strive to be better?
We compare as a way of trying to make ourselves feel better or even just to feel good enough. It’s about searching outside of yourself for self-acceptance. “I’ll have enough money when I can buy clothes like that.” “I’ll be thin enough when I fit in a size 0 like her.” “I’ll be successful when I have a job like her.” “I’ll be in love and happy when I am in a relationship like them.” Happiness and self-acceptance are an inside job. Comparison will never get you there.
“Personality begins where comparison ends.” – Karl Lagerfeld
I’ll confess – I really struggle with comparison. I’ve long suffered from the “I’m not good enough” mentality which is a breeding ground for comparison. And it’s definitely my default.
Growing up I always compared myself to others as a measure of being smart, pretty, thin, or popular enough. It was always about trying to reach this magical place of enough. And I never got there. Because the funny thing about comparison is that there was always something or someone new to compare myself to. Comparison led me to feel very isolated because it separated me from everyone else. It was hard for me to form true connections or fully experience my life because I was living full-time in comparison-land. And I never felt like I was enough.
Over the past few years I have been on a journey to clean up my life from the inside out. I have looked into the darkest corners of my life in an attempt to bring my stuff to the surface to heal and release it. This notion of “enough” and my comparison tendencies are central to that work. I am working to reprogram my default mindset. And I’ll be honest, I struggle with this daily. As I shine more light on my life I can see more clearly how comparing myself to others has kept me stuck and prevented me to embracing and sharing my authentic self. But it’s hard for me not to compare. I’ll read a post from a blogger about her experience going Paleo and think “I’m not Paleo enough.” In yoga class everyone else with easily get into a headstand or crow and I will think “They are so much better than I am. I’m not advanced enough for this class.” These thoughts prevent me from living MY best life because they disconnect me from what is best for me. I am on my own path and comparing doesn’t honor that. It forces me to live someone else’s life. Comparison dims my light and keeps me hidden.
These moments of comparison make me feel gross. I feel depleted, small, and physically uncomfortable in my skin. It’s this discomfort that shows me that I’m growing. It’s my inner voice calling me to witness my comparison in the moment and choose another path.
There is no magic pill to take to remove the comparison part of your brain. It is a practice – a moment to moment willingness to change. Here are my steps to stop comparison in its tracks:
- Ask for help by saying “I am willing to see this differently. Please reinterpret this comparison for me.” All you need is the slight willingness to release your comparison.
- Forgive yourself if your comparison led to judgement of self or others.
- One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from my mentor, Gabrielle Bernstein, is that the light I see in others is really the light I see in myself. Recite this prayer “The light I see in them is a reflection of my inner light.” This instantly removes the separation and attack.
- Practice gratitude daily. Start and end each day by celebrating all that you are grateful for. The most powerful way to do this is by writing down 3-5 things that you are grateful for first thing in the morning and right before going to bed. Focusing on all that you have will reframe how you approach your day. You will be less likely to default to comparison when you feel grateful for your life. You can even use this gratitude list tool when you catch yourself comparing – in the moment make a list of what you are grateful for. You will instantly change your energy.
I am committed to detoxing from comparison. I want to feel free, grateful, energized, and fully authentic. I want to radiate happiness and light. Comparison doesn’t support these desires. I hope you’ll join me on this journey. Look deep within yourself and get honest about how you are comparing yourself to others. Practice the tools I outlined above and be patient and kind with yourself. Let’s enter a #ComparisonFreeZone!