Recovery coach Jackie Campion on overcoming the habit of comparison
Many of us know that comparison is the thief of joy, so why do we keep doing it?[restrict]
Are you even aware that you compare?
Let’s drop the intellect for a second, and the thought that you should ‘know better’ than to compare yourself. Let’s get curious. Instead of trying to stop that act of comparing, why not ask yourself, “what is this highlighting for me? What are my actions & behaviours expressing?” If you find yourself in a rabbit hole of thinking about, or scrolling through, what the rest of the world is doing, take a moment to reflect: “What am I not doing here?”
When we are comparing, we are not being present, or looking after our needs. Therefore, we are not taking action that could be effective for real change in our lives. By not looking after our actual needs, we actively neglect ourselves, and our possibility for contentment in this life. We then run the real risk of ending up having our fears turn into our reality.
Comparing will often be driven by what I call ‘conditioned’ thinking, which comes from an accumulation of self-limiting beliefs that are formed on a subconscious level. Many of us aren’t even aware that they are there. Conditioned thoughts are not in line with our truth or the essence of who we really are, but resemble those of a bully in our head. Words like ‘can’t’, ‘have to’, ‘need to’, or ‘should’ circulate consciously and subconsciously.
As human beings, we love ‘shoulding’ all over ourselves. Watch out for that one. This style of thinking will lead us to feel very heavy and uncomfortable, and can drive a sense of being not good enough.
Comparing has never been easier or more accessible than it is today. The information age has us high on the supply of possibilities to compare. Not only are we looking out the window to see that our neighbour is actually getting walk in wardrobes, ‘absolute notions’ or ‘well for some’, is what the bully in my head would respond when I saw people getting what I thought I wanted.
Now we get to see what Storm over in Australia is having for her breakfast, and how many squats she’s doing in order to look so fabulous in her minimalist, with a boho twist of course, townhouse.
What drives the comparison?
The point is, we know way too much and it’s not always getting us very far when it comes to living a life of contentment and satisfaction. When it comes to the destructive act or comparing, we must ask ourselves what is driving such behaviour? What is our intention here? Are we hoping to find something to justify where we are, or where we aren’t at this stage of our lives?
We can think things like, ‘oh thank god they have cellulite too’ or ‘thank god, they’re back living with the parents now as well’, as if to desperately try and get some relief and reassurance that we are not the only ones, and that the judgement of how we look, or what stage of our lives we are at, isn’t a sign of failure, or a reflection on how good or bad we are doing at life.
What if we were the only one though? What would it bring up for us? Shame, judgement, embarrassment? Or are you experiencing the opposite, hoping to find out that you are doing better or are ‘ahead’ of your peers? There is no shame in either practice, it’s just information. Information we can use to start getting fascinated, become a David Attenborough in our own lives.
We compare our bodies, number of followers, families, children, and salaries; the list goes on. I used to compare how sick I was compared to other people. I would often wonder, how mentally ill is mentally ill enough? Not good enough syndrome can have an interesting way of twisting everything into competition and comparison.
When we compare, we are deficient in valuing and trusting ourselves. The bully in our head tells us we are incapable of creating these opportunities and possibilities, in our lives. Welcome Resentment. Oh resentment, how I have learnt so much from you.
It took me about 19 years to be capable of being happy for other people. I actually think I was born jealous, but I wouldn’t want you to know that, couldn’t deal with the possible judgement. Instead, I decided to dedicate those years to trying to be nice, while comparison and victim mode came to the boil and consistently simmered dangerously on the edge.
I would be prompted online to ‘Congratulate Lauren on her new promotion’. I absolutely will not be congratulating Lauren on her new promotion; I would think to myself. That wagon is always getting the jobs and positions that I deserve.
That’s comparing for you, in all of its glory.
The ‘poor me’, the ‘it’s not fair’, the ‘it’s easier for them’. And what does that do? It continues to engrain and deepen the belief system that things just don’t ‘work out’ for you. Although, what’s wrong with thinking that, I hear you ask?
Well I actually can’t hear you asking anything, but my intellect likes it as a segue into the next part of this article. Hard to shake off the remnants of Junior Cert creative writing.
Knowledge versus belief
Anyway, back to my point. The danger is that our beliefs drive our behaviours, so, unfortunately, if you believe that things won’t work out for you, or so-and-so is better than you, it is the perfect cocktail for a life of suffering. Even the little highs won’t be good enough for you, because your subconscious mind will be ready and waiting in the aisles to remind you, ‘don’t get too excited now, it won’t last’ or ‘they’ll find you out’. I actually left LinkedIn for this exact reason. Not been back since.
We all know at this stage that Instagram and similar social media platforms are just highlight reels. So why do we still feel like crap after scrolling? And why do we spend precious time trying to convince ourselves that what we are consuming is, in reality, not what it seems? We know this, but knowing isn’t enough, it’s what we believe that has the real power.
The idea of reprogramming your subconscious mind to believe that you are doing a great job at life, and that things do, and will, work out for you, takes time. Longer than a cheeky little scroll just to get your dopamine hit. So we normally just pick the latter for sheer convenience.
So, as someone who is finally happy to see you free yourself from the poison of comparison(would not have written this 10 years ago, that’s for sure) this is what you could do about it :
Step 1: Practice bringing your awareness to the when, where and what, you are comparing yourself to. Listen for language such as “I wish”,” If only”, “it’s not fair”.
Step 2: Get curious. Please refrain from justifying this destructive act as “just something we all do”. Stop, Slow down, and ask yourself:
“What is the story I am telling myself here?”
“What would I say to my best friend if I heard them speaking to themselves in this way?”
I would encourage you to get those thoughts onto some paper to help create some space between you and your thinking. You are not your thinking, you are the awareness.
Step 3: Start reprogramming your subconscious mind, or healthy brainwashing if you want a slightly less sci-fi description of it. Repeated theory becomes fact, and god knows how long you have been speaking to yourself in this way, implying that you are still not good enough until [insert your preferred carrot at the end of stick here], and that everyone else is doing a better job. The rise and fall of the subconscious mind is that it believes everything you tell it. So if you would like to re-anchor your energy and redirect it from comparing to actually feeling real, long lasting, contentment, I invite you to reflect on the following:
“What if I was good enough?” How would that impact your motivation towards satisfying your needs and wants today? What if you allowed yourself to believe that you were always good enough, and there was never anything wrong with you, you just thought that there was?
Change your research project, and start reminding yourself to mind yourself. Think of all the times you have done a good job, the times you were valued and made some serious moves in life. When you believe that you can, it will impact your behaviours in life. Many of us know this, but now, we can start working towards actually believing it.
Stay in your own lane, your life will thank you for it.