I’ve spent two years researching, writing and teaching about comparison, and I still catch myself doing it.
“She’s so courageous and creative.” (Amanda Palmer, I bow to your naked-and-pregnant-living-statue boldness.)
“That level of athleticism is just completely beyond me.” (My friend Jen C – also a mom of two – regularly awes me with her 50+ km trail runs. Whoa.)
Business and career successes; bucket list items getting checked off; I never know what’s going to trigger my inner comparer next.
But I do know what to do when she shows up. And that’s made all the difference.
How to tell if your Comparer is a problem
Here’s the thing: I used to make the Comparer’s observations all about me, in a negative way. I’d turn “She’s courageous and creative” into “…and I’m not.” “He’s an inspired teacher” became “…and I could use more training.”
Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with feeling like I’d benefit from more teacher training. The problem lies in the tone and the impact of this inner script.
The tone of my Comparer is pretty harsh. And the impact of her words is… deflating.
When I let my Comparer have at me, I feel depleted, lacking, and less worthy. (And after talking to dozens of people who’ve worked with the Beyond Compare program I created with Tanya Geisler, I know this is a very common experience.)
Depleted, lacking, and less worthy are pretty awful places to work from. Imagine trying to set a new fitness target from that emotional place. Or dreaming up a new creative project. Or setting some new career goals.
Would you feel motivated? Passionate? Committed?
Yeah. Didn’t think so.
The two best medicines for comparison
In the words of my wise friend Alexis Morgan, “Comparison disconnects us from what we’re actually passionate about and makes it hard to make decisions that deeply fuel our fire.”
Here’s how I observe the mental process: First, I notice a quality in someone that I admire. (Comparison can go in the other direction, too, but that’s a topic for another post.) Courage, artistry, boldness, and athleticism are common ones for me; yours will likely be different.
Next, I do an on-the-spot assessment of how I measure up in that capacity. Luckily (ha), I have intimate knowledge of all the times in my life I have failed to live courageously, creatively, boldly, or athletically, so I quickly come up with a long list of demerits.
Cue depletion, lack, and unworthiness.
But wait! Help is on the way, in the form of two key tools: Grounding and Inquiry.
Grounding is where we begin.
The first thing we need to do, when we’re stuck in depletion, lack, and unworthiness, is to become present and grounded in what’s real. To do that, we have to drop the stories flying around in our monkey minds, reconnect with our bodies and our breath, and remember who we really are.
We spend a good deal of time on this in Beyond Compare. (For those of you who are new around here, that’s the self-study program I created with the fabulous Tanya Geisler.) Grounding is where we begin; it’s where we close; and it’s the foundation on which the entire program is built. The simple but essential kindness of being with ourselves in the present moment is the first step towards feeling whole – and dropping the comparison trip.
(Isn’t “trip” the best hippie word ever? We must bring it back.)
Inquiring without judgment
And then, once we’ve found our roots and remembered ourselves, we can inquire into what lies beneath the comparison. When I envy someone’s athleticism, it’s often because I’m feeling like caring for my body comes last on my priority list. (Raise your hands, mothers of infants and toddlers.) The cure for that doesn’t need to be a 50km trail run; it could be making myself a healthy breakfast rather than toast-on-the-go, again. Or taking the baby out for a walk while I listen to one of my favourite podcasts. Or showering with some gorgeously scented soap.
When I’m gobsmacked by someone’s creativity, I’m typically not making time for my own creative pursuits.
When I’m awed by their courage, I’m probably taking the path of least resistance somewhere in my life.
You get my drift.
The inquiry process is at the heart of Beyond Compare, and obviously I can’t cover the whole thing in a single blog post, but the essence of it is to notice the quality that you’re admiring, and then find the places within yourself where you are and aren’t expressing that quality – and, importantly, note them without judging yourself.
When you approach comparison this way, your Comparer will stop seeing the fabulous people in your world as objects of envy, jealousy, or other kinds of win/lose dynamics – and start seeing them as founts of inspiration. And I don’t just mean inspiration in the sense that Jen’s crazy trail runs are INSPIRING (though of course they are), but the deeper kind of inspiration where you actually feel inspired to live your life according to your own fiery passions – not those of other people.
Do you want to strip naked, cover yourself in body paint, and recreate a Damien Hirst statue with your own pregnant body? Then great – g’head and take copious notes from Ms. Palmer’s fantastic art performance. But if what you really want is to express your own creativity, boldness, and courage, then don’t bother trying to be like her. Ground yourself, and inquire within. (Deep within.)
A new tool to help you quiet your Comparer
Because – to paraphrase one of my very favourite sayings – what the world needs isn’t more people who’ve done living-statue performance art, or endurance trail runs. What the world needs is people who have come alive.
If the Comparer is tripping you up in depletion, lack, and unworthiness, Beyond Compare can help you reconnect with your own unique fire and move forward with grounded focus.
I’m so proud of this program and of the positive impact it’s had for people. If you recognize your own Comparer in any of what I’ve written, I would love for you to take part in the newest addition to our body of work on comparison:
Today, we’re launching a free 5-day Beyond Compare intro course. You can sign up right here.
It’s designed to take just 5 minutes a day, for 5 days. And it will give you a real taste of what life beyond compare looks like for you. I don’t know what that will be – but I do know it’s uniquely yours. And more of your uniqueness is exactly what the world needs.