In my time, I have been a black-belt master at comparing myself to other people.
I must have been using some kind of fun-house yardstick to measure the differences, because invariably I came up short (and I’m not referring to my five-foot-nothing height).
According to the fun-house yardstick, The Other Person (TOP) usually:
- had more money (see the BMW and designer handbag?), ergo was a far better financial manager than my struggling peon self, or
- had a svelte figure, while I was Moby Donna, the Great White Whale, or
- kept her house spotless, unlike my own hit-or-miss (more often missed) efforts
I could go on (and on, and on), but you get the idea.
I wasted a whole lot of time beating myself up for my perceived inadequacies and failures. I had a lot of help with that from the media, which could always be counted upon to reinforce my abysmal self-image, and from advertising (there’s tons of money to be made by whipping up people’s insecurities and presenting a variety of “solutions”, each more expensive than the last.)
I might have gone on like this indefinitely if I hadn’t hit a particularly rough patch in my life (I guess you could call it a blessing in very heavy disguise) and ended up in counseling. With all the craziness going on in my life, I was startled when the first thing the counselor zeroed in on was my dysfunctional relationship with…me. (Say who???)
We talked at length about my tendency to compare myself to other people (always to my detriment) and how this was actually an effective form of self-sabotage. (If I’m a total failure, then what’s the use in trying?) We also discussed how other people were probably not the perfect paragons I built them up to be in my own mind. My homework assignment for the week was to jot down a note every time I caught myself wielding that fun-house yardstick, plus–and this is really good–describe how I was comparing my own insides to other people’s public outsides.
I realized I didn’t know anything about these people beyond what I saw in a quick surface glimpse. I disliked and resented them because I pounced on one thing that made me feel bad about myself. I had no clue what they were really like. I had no idea what problems and challenges they might face in their lives. I had been every bit as unfair to these people as I’d been to myself, and, while they would never have a clue about it, I knew. And I didn’t want to be that person, not any more.
I’m still very much a work in progress, but the operative word is progress. I try to keep in mind that we’re all in this life together, everybody’s doing the best they can with what they’ve got, and kindness doesn’t cost a damn thing.
Take care, all!