I’ve been trying to think lately how to stop comparing myself with other people. Its a pretty basic question, but at the same time its what has been ingrained in me for years- I was anorexic in the past, and that’s just the lens through which I saw my life. If I wasn’t better than someone (especially thinner), I was a failure. Now the weight is back, but the problem still tortures me at times. How do I stop comparing myself to others without completely over-inflating my self esteem? I don’t want to get to the place where I just assume I’m better than others to feel good about myself, or where I stop trying all together. I want to walk into a room, know I’m not the prettiest, smartest, “best” person there, and remain strong enough in who I am and who I’m not to be happy with the woman God made me to be. So yes, that would definitely be something I could use outside wisdom on!
Thanks for your help,
I write this response from both a personal and a professional place–I can say that you are not alone in this because I witness it on various levels in nearly everyone that I encounter as well as within myself. I also want to acknowledge you for the tremendous courage it takes to consciously overcome an eating disorder, and I hear that you bring great insight, compassion and self-awareness into this inquiry.
The ego part of ourselves, that part of us that seeks to “protect us” and “get us love” while thriving on our fear and sense of worthlessness is always what is active in situations of comparison. The ego part of us believes that we are all separate and that the only way to get love, to even be worthy of love in the first place, is to somehow be better, perfect, more flawless than everyone else. The more that we listen to that voice, the sooner we can find ourselves on a hamster wheel of self-destruction, never actually receiving the love that we so long for.
The way to begin breaking down those false barriers between you and others comes in doing the opposite of what your ego is telling you to do–you cannot choose your thoughts, but you can choose which ones that you believe and act on. So, you walk into a room and see a beautiful girl–your ego says, “The only way you can get love is to be the best, and she is clearly better than you.” Chances are when that happens that “pretty girl” is the last person that you really want to talk to, to understand, and/or be vulnerable with and it’s hard to imagine that she can relate to what you’re experiencing in her presence. In these moments, one of the best ways to break up the energy of comparison & to get to what is truly real, is to reach out in a spirit of friendship. Your ego wants to isolate, and your consciousness knows we are all connected–as you put it, all made by God, and in that way, all “of the same.” When you can reach out from a place of honesty and openness to those people who threaten you as well as those who your ego wants to make “less than,” you begin to discover the humanity that we all share, remind yourself of your compassionate nature, and discover how truly acceptable and worthy that you are. Love and kindness always break through the illusion of separation and remind us of our inherent magnificence. When your mind wants to go toward comparison, I invite you to seek the common ground–given that we are all human, chances are darn good that every person you’ve compared yourself with through the years has felt pain and is carrying his/her own wound, too. Woundedness and humanity is just sort of a package deal. Healing and humanity are a package deal, too–the more you share what is real about you and make room to seek and understand what is real within others, you’ll create beautiful opportunities to heal your and others’ hidden wounds.
My other invitation for you is to be kind with yourself when this happens–your thoughts do not make you a bad person. They simply make you…a person. You mentioned not wanting to build yourself up so that you see yourself as superior, which is an important insight, and like I mention above, would only feed your ego self and take away from your sense of well-being. With that said, I do want to encourage you to sit down from time to time and make a list of all that you love about yourself–not what makes you better than others, but rather what YOU and YOU ALONE love about who you are. Living from a place of openness and compassion means that you celebrate ALL of humanity, including yourself. You ARE a unique being–no one else on the planet is exactly like you. Each and every one of us is unique and has our own role to play. The more you remind yourself and celebrate your own uniqueness–regardless of whether or not you have others’ approval, the more you build up a well-spring of compassion in your own heart that will overflow to others.
As I write this I’m reminded of an anecdote from a client who was at one time struggling with a desire to be “special” or “greater than.” She went through an exercise that really shifted her understanding of her own unique “specialness.” At a spiritual retreat, she was led through a guided meditation in which she had to envision herself somewhere in nature. Her mind floated to an image of a giant redwood forest. The instructor then asked each participant to find what represents them in that place. My client’s ego voice immediately exclaimed in her mind, “I’m the giant redwood tree!” and yet following that exclamation, she heard a quieter voice that said, “No. You’re the soil.” Her ego voice responded, “Soil? Why would I want to be soil? What’s so great about soil?!” The quieter voice said, “The soil NURTURES the giant redwood trees.” And so she realized, she was indeed the soil. Understanding this has allowed her to own this gift and be the behind-the-scenes nurturer that truly brings her and those in relationship with her the most fulfillment.
It’s easy to see our talents and strengths as though they are “dirt” compared to other people’s, but as it turns out, we all have a unique role to play in this vast and beautiful universe in which we live. Keep opening up and sharing who you are. Keep befriending those that threaten you in one way or another. Keep exploring the uniqueness that exists within you and all who cross your path.
Thank you again for your honest sharing of yourself and for your wonderful insight–Your thoughtfulness is truly a gift.
With Much Love,
Melissa A.K.A. The JoyDiva
©2012 Melissa Simonson