Comparison is a habit that has been with me since childhood.
I grew up buying stuff I didn’t want and pretending to like stuff I didn’t like because someone I admired had those things or liked those things, and I thought that it was the “stuff” that gave these people the aura that I liked about them. My mom will probably never let me forget the time I had her pay around $100 for a bunch of Sanrio pencils, erasers, pens, and one of those compartmentalized, jackknife-like pencils cases. I think I was about 10 at the time, so I didn’t have much of a concept of money and I didn’t realize that what I was putting on the cashier’s counter was adding up to be that much. I was just grabbing whatever the popular girls in my class had along with whatever I thought they’d like. In my mind, it was the colorful, expensive school supplies that was the secret to their perfect got-it-togetherness.
A few months later, after the erasers were blackened nubs, the pencils were all “borrowed” by random classmates, and my jackknife pencil case was rendered unusable due to multiple jammed compartments, I still didn’t have the popular girls’ aura of perfection that I thought would be transmitted to me after my Sanrio shopping spree.
As an adult, I might not spend hundreds of dollars on Sanrio school wares, but the spirit of whatever it is that drives me to compare myself to others still lives in me.
I look at the roundness of my belly and the deep folds in my back, and I wish I could trade them in for the flatness of a stranger’s belly and the sculpted tone of her back. I scroll through the daily highlights of social media and watch short snippets of video that seem to tell the stories of perfect lives full of success, dreams fulfilled, and true love found. At times, my life seems pale and transparent against the backdrop of the colorful lives displayed around me.
I am not alone.
You can blame social media or the consumerist culture that we live in or this current trend that drives us to “hustle” ourselves through sleep deprivation and fatigue to achieve other people’s dreams, but the urge to compare yourself to other people around you, both familiar and strangers, is something we all deal with from time to time.
Everyone goes through the feeling that the next person’s body/career/relationship/life is better than his or hers, but not only does spending too much time looking at “greener” grass cause depression and anxiety, but it stalls us from living our best lives and converts us into a state of simply existing. You become a spectator hoping to luck up and catch a stray ball one day. You become afraid to go out on the field and play the game for yourself. You start to shrink yourself, and even when you make progress, you downplay it once you start your old habit of comparing yourself to someone who you think is “on another level” or “in another league”.
This is self-abuse. The good news is that there is a cure.
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For me, the cure will be minimalism. I’ve always been bothered by how attached I can become to things, and minimalism will help me to build my identity around the intangible things that make me who I am rather than objects that I’ve felt I had to buy more and more of to measure up to other people. I love the idea of having an edited closet filled with only things that I love to wear that fit perfectly on my body, and I’ve always wanted my space to reflect that same carefully edited, pulled together, curated effect that is uniquely me. This will be the outward manifestation of minimalism that can only be achieved once the same intentional editing is done inside myself.
Minimalism requires a lot of self work that breaks you out of the comparison cycle by giving you a peace of mind about yourself. You learn through cutting the excess away that you are alright, all by yourself. No designer labels, perfect abs, or fancy trips are needed. Nothing is wrong with any of these things, but gaining an anchoring within yourself allows you to authentically enjoy these things without the tenseness and pressure that we put on ourselves when we compete with others with things.
Cutting back on social media, which I’ve spoken about before, is of course another cure to a long-held habit of comparison. Give yourself the space to appreciate your accomplishments, your body, your relationships, and your life without the mental chatter that results from looking at streams of other people’s lives all day. I love social media, but at times, putting down the phone and closing the laptop is a matter of self-care.
The cure for comparison is less...less "stuff", less distraction, more self-knowledge, more self-work.
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I guess, to make this short, the cure for comparison is less.The cure for comparison is discernment and self-knowledge. It is intentional editing in all areas of life. It is committing oneself to a lifetime of self-work. It is unplugging and turning inward toward your own glow.
Let it go. You are alright, all by yourself.
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