You’ll likely know that I’m participating in a writer’s workshop and that I am setting up a routine of writing towards book publication. Well, listening to the authors on the workshop today, I caught myself comparing my work, my experience and my writing with them. And it wasn’t puffed up, self-empowerment comparison; it was the ‘Darn, I’ve got nothing new to say’ kind of comparisons.
And, just as it happens, one of the authors in this workshop began to talk about the spiritual anchors that assist him during his writing process. Drawing me out of my woe fantasy, I hear Gregg Braden announce his number two spiritual anchor: ‘Everything is perfect, until it is compared to something else’.
Never a truer word, I thought to myself. And thus the topic of tonight’s blog…
What happens when we compare ourselves or an aspect of us, or an aspiration of self with another?
What voice do you think makes that comparison? Where does it come from?
I realise that I have several voices that compare.
There is the ‘I’m not good enough’ voice.
There is the ‘I can do better than that’ voice
There is the ‘I don’t have the resources’ voice
There is the ‘If they can, I can’ voice
Oh, there are a whole lot of comparison voices jiggling and joggling around in my noggin.
So when I began to think more deeply upon this, I realised that there are helpful and unhelpful comparisons – just as they can come with discernment or helpful and unhelpful judgements.
It’s fair to say that comparisons can be constructive, and at times, even necessary. We make discerning, life-enhancing comparisons and judgements every day: from the type of car we drive, the food we buy, the activities we participate in and so on.
My comparison faculty helps me to distinguish the traits of one thing from another. This allows me to determine the best of two or more, according to its right fit with whatever my requirements are. In this way, comparison is an everyday, natural and healthy act of functional living.
The type of comparison I want to write about is the self-comparison. And just like the everyday decision-defining comparisons, self-comparison can be helpful and unhelpful.
Helpful comparisons can open up possibility for self-growth, healing and expansion. They can shift us out of unhealthy situations and into life-enhancing ones.
Well, again, it’s not that kind of comparison I’m referring to here. I’m talking about the ‘why do I even bother’ comparisons or the ‘crikey, my butt is huge in these jeans’ comparisons. I want to talk more about the unhelpful judging comparisons.
What I know is that whenever I compare myself with another or something outside of me, I do so from my own paradigm – personal, cultural and the historical context in which I live.
The thoughts, beliefs, perceptions I hold are particular to me because of how I grew up, what and who I’ve been influenced by, all the various characteristics of my social and cultural experiences, and the time in which I live. I make judgements based on these.
Why is this important to know?
Because my comparisons, and my subsequent judgements are influenced by all of these factors, and are not objective truths (in my mind, there’s no such thing anyway). They are relative and changing, and dependent on my thinking, beliefs and perceptions at any given time.
And it will be the same for you.
And our paradigms – those thoughts, beliefs, perceptions – they are subconscious driving factors that influence us, but they are not the essence of us. We are more, and we are better, even more than we think we are.
When I reflect on comparisons now, I think how can we not compare when we are saturated by competition, and embedded in the structures that support, encourage, and often demand competitive behaviours.
The culture I was brought up in, like many of you, is based on competition. This competition is derives from artificially created hierarchies of achievement and status determined by manufactured social and cultural rules and norms. It begins the moment we are born into particular ‘class’, culture, religious, economic and social situations, and simply becomes part of the fabric of our process as we enter public engagement. Competition is rife in our culture.
So here we are – or here I am – making unhelpful (slot in negative) judging comparisons.
And what do they serve?
They serve to perpetuate false beliefs, unhelpful thinking and self-limitation.
And they bring me down.
They are not fair on me or the other. They lower my vibration and they move me out of love and into fear.
Who wants to live like that?
So how do I shift unhelpful comparison into positive self-regard?
Discerning without judgement and comparing with judging kindness…
Discerning without judgement means that when I find myself making comparisons, I ACTIVELY notice whether unhelpful self or other judgements are coming into play, and my discernment knows that it is SO much richer if they didn’t happen.
So, I chat myself: ‘Ah, there you are, unfairly judging’; ‘Karolyne, you don’t have to go there’; ‘You don’t have all the information about that’; ‘We are all unique beings’ and so on..
And then, so I am not berating myself for my judging comparison, I move into loving-kindness – for the other and for myself.
You can too.
Unfair, inaccurate, manufactured, unhelpful and unhealthy comparisons do not serve us. Let’s make a pact together to notice when we’re doing that… And agree that we will chat ourselves, and turn loving kindness on our self and the other.
From a mindfulness psychology perspective, the more we notice our experience, consciously naming it- ‘ah there’s that comparison voice’ - and practice positive self-regard and loving kindness – the thoughts and behaviours change.
They really do.
And there will be a time when both you and I will turn to one another and with pleasant surprise and the realisation that we have not made an unhelpful judging self-comparison in weeks…
And then years.
So may it be!