Comparison: the root of all evil?
Max Ehrmann (via my dad) once said:
For years I've known about this quote and others that go along the lines of stay in your lane or you do you boo (equally as poetic). So, why is it so hard to put into practice? You see, it's much easier to focus your attention on the failings or achievements of others because then you don't have to turn the microscope on your own lives. Personally, my journey away from comparison went through two major phases: perpetual explicit comparison and self-judgment and criticism. When I was in the golden age of my pre-teens perpetual explicit comparison was the flavour of the month. I'm sure you've experienced or at least seen on classic tv shows, like Lizzie Mcguire, the stereotype of young girls being really bitchy.
Looking back now it's so sad how much time I would spend talking about other people. From comparing my piano ability to Birdy to the more sinister reading of gossip column's breakdown of celeb beach bodies. It's easy to blame society for this apparent epidemic in talking about people. In fact, most of the time it's places like Daily Mail online that get the flack, but the reality is they will keep publishing these hot or not / before and after pics just as long as we keep clicking on them. Nowadays, I'm coming to terms with the shame I feel about years of negativity and, for the most part, girl on girl crime. There's people I went to high school with that even by the time I started university I was still bitching about their physical appearance or relationship history.
What scares me now is how easy it can be to fall into these old patterns. Normally, it only takes one particularly gossipy friend (I'm sure you know at least one) before I'm slagging off someone's choice of university based on nightlife or even making amateur diagnosis about eating disorders. I never feel good after these conversations. I walk away wishing I hadn't taking things so far and I'm washed with guilt about my own sense of judgment. But, beyond our high school peers it seems like our world is becoming increasingly critical of those around us. The hypocrisy is crazy when you think about how we're all humans trying to do the best we can. I believe the worst consequence is the inevitable self-comparison that comes from it.
This next sentences might offend some of you but hear me out. I'm tired of hearing about Trump's orangeness, oldness, fatness, baldness etc. I think it's a cop out for actual discourse about his policies and values. Every comedian who makes a comment about him looking like a cheeto is my queue to sign off because judging Trump based on his physical appearance only perpetuates a belief that that's okay. I'm sure most of my friends would agree that slagging off a female celebrity on any of these accounts is not okay. But, by continuing to play on Trump's playing field where people are just objects to criticise we're not elevating the conversation. Maybe you're wondering why I've taken a massive segway, but I truly believe this is all related.
Whenever we choose to talk about people in a way that's judgy or mean, especially about superficial things like physical appearance, we are projecting our own insecurities. Why do I love to bitch about people who are 'work-a-holics'? It's probably to do with the shame that I still carry about not working hard enough. How do you feel after a good old gossiping session? I'm sure like me it might feel good at the time, but afterwards a spiral of guilt and self-loathing normally ensues. The way you talk about people dictates all of your relationships, especially the relationship you have with yourself. Rather than complain about people's faults or weaknesses, I feel much more in touch with myself when I'm championing those around me. This mentality of each to their own and helping everyone realise their fuller potential is contagious.
The onset of social media has meant we have to be even more vigilant because it's so easy to compare yourself to someone's so-called highlight reel. Nuclear option is to delete all platforms, but if you're looking for a way to cut down on judgmental behaviour a good start is to focus in on how much time you're spending fuelling hatred on Instagram. Think about how you can replace feelings of self-loathing as you scroll past a perfect bikini picture with positive activities like meditation, Ted talks or exercise. Anything to get you out of your own recovering comparison addicted head - remember you're still behind enemy lines. At the very least force yourself to like any photo or post that provoked a knee jerk jealousy response when you see it. We're peeling back deep-set habits here, so the only way to re-programme your brain is to take every moment as it comes.
Next time you're in a bad mood or someone's pissed you off challenge yourself to look at the positives in the other person? Who knows maybe later when you start to beat yourself up for a similar situation you'll choose the road to self compassion instead- it's worth a try! I've definitely found the more I give people the benefit of the doubt and the less I judge the perfectly flawed humans around me the better I feel.
All my love, Sam