For as long as I can remember, I have had a natural tendency to compare myself to others. This is both human and normal. But overdoing it can lead to going down a rabbit hole and eventual despair if we don’t catch ourselves. You may relate in some way.
Comparing to others has fed my ambition and competitive sides as well as occasionally benefiting from it. But after 47 years of life experience, self-reflection, yoga (and therapy) I realise that comparing to others is utterly exhausting and usually not very constructive.
Even being a yogi for the past 25 years and teaching students for 12 of them, I’ve had my fair share of energy directed toward this ‘comparing’ phenomenon. It rarely elicits our highest potential.
Comparing– a case in point example
I was newly back at the gym the other morning after a hiatus as of COVID-19 this year. I thought at first it was nice to be back in person as opposed to online. I got to see familiar faces that I hadn’t seen for nearly a year. I was committing to two classes a week.
The sessions are all outdoors with a view and sounds of the sea, sometimes murmuring and other times a roaring spectacle. Much like our internal worlds at any given time. It felt symbiotic and positive on that front as well.
But, as I was holding my little 2 kilo weights in hand, ready to begin the circuit class, I had an uncomfortable visceral feeling in my chest and pit of stomach. It was an all too familiar feeling recalling why I was hesitant to come back. The ‘C’ word. (It may not be what you had been initially thinking.)
I’m referring to how easily we fall into the trap of comparing ourselves to others and then being critical (or overly harsh) on ourselves or others!
I was not as fast. I was not as fit. I was not as chatty. I was not as healthy. I (literally) was not as awake. With quite a long history of anxiety and depression, mornings are particularly challenging for me. As an old pattern reared its ugly head, my inner dialogue equated the comparison to not being ‘good enough’.
Truth was, I had barely made it to the class with a minute to spare and had two odd socks on, my pants on back to front and things spilling over from my bag. Not uncommon for me. Plus, because I was coming from a place of lack instead of abundance and needing to clear the cobwebs, I was comparing myself to others in the class. In my mind’s narrative everyone else got up looking perfect and ready to fly.
It took everything in me to come back to a semblance of balance. I suddenly wished I was back at home in my safe cocoon. I had to ground my feet on the mat trying my best to stay centered. My energy was sapped before the class had even attempted to start.
When I caught myself depleting my own energy stores, I had to remind myself of my value and compassionately steered myself to the reality where everyone has daily challenges and struggles. My narrowed perception saw something different in a given moment, yet as humans we are all doing the best we can. Myself included.
Comparison to others can feed or drain our energy
Whether it’s in a professional capacity such as seeing people we know in careers or opportunities we may have once (or still) long for, or in a personal capacity such as being with family members or friends, comparing ourselves to others from a sense of our own lack depletes our store of energy. Verses coming from a place of fullness where our energy is fed.
We need energy directed in a self-compassionate way. We are the only ones who have existed in our shoes and lived our lives thus far. This in itself is reason to view the world from our own abundance and vitality, no matter what our path has been to date. Run our own race so to speak and evolve steadily over time in areas we value.
Minimise the ‘C’ word
It’s expected to notice what others are doing but let’s aim for minimising the ‘C’ word. As we head toward the holiday season and in particular at the end of this 2020, the peculiar year with the COVID-19 pandemic, we are heading into a new version of normal in 2021.
We can be reminded to notice when we overly compare and are critical of our own lot in a given moment or in our life. Concentrate on nourishing rather than diminishing our energy stores so we can ‘fly’ our own way and be the best versions of ourselves.