Ditching comparison is only one step in a good direction, the best part is what comes next.
What do you do well? What do you enjoy? What gives life to your heart? What is it that brings integration between your body, soul and spirit?
The true answers to these questions can only be found when we stop comparing, and as I have slowly left comparison island, little by little I am discovering who I am. The only limitations that exist are the ones that are real, so I will not be going to the beach today because I live in Switzerland where it is October and chilly not to mention we have no ocean.
For years I hardly cooked because I was busy looking at the ways I’ve failed in the kitchen before and comparing myself to other good cooks, my mother, my sisters, my friends. It took being in a foreign country with no real relationships to whom I could compare myself and the need to feed Husband and I that made me realize that I love to cook, I love the creativity and I love the challenge. I also love protecting our health through what we put in our bodies. I don’t know what my life would be like now if I stopped cooking.
What has comparison taken from you? Make a list. What could you start doing today if you weren’t comparing yourself to a false standard? Write down your desires, your skills, your dreams and see what item on the list you can tackle first.
Or the post where I introduce you to one of my stranger personality quirks.
I have to give myself permission to do things.
For example I decided a few months ago that one week of the month was going to be my “Relationships Week” or the week where most things are left to the side but every opportunity I had to hang out with someone, I took it. And I felt no guilt at the end of each day for the simple meals, the slightly messier surroundings and the full schedule. It was Relationships Week. I hung out with friends today! Mission accomplished!
If I finish a day and am not able to point to something that I’ve accomplished, I generally feel guilty that I haven’t done enough (because taking care of a 17-month-old clearly doesn’t count as an accomplishment). But if at the start of the day, I decide I’m not going to do anything, I feel great at the end of the day. Rested, relaxed, and feeling generally well.
See, I told you. It’s a bit bizarre, and maybe next October I’ll do a 31 day series on how to deal with unnecessary guilt feelings, but I digress.
I was thinking about this as I grated carrots for a lentil loaf this morning, and I was thinking about the different ways I could grate carrots, how to be less messy, should I skin the carrot or not, buy organic or not, and then I thought, Don’t be ridiculous, these carrots are fine, you are fine, everything is fine. And all was well in my head again.
Permission. I have to give myself Official Devi Permission before I am able to change the way I feel about something.
Comparison can become such a way of life in our heads that we have to give ourselves permission to live differently, permission to think differently, permission to be different.
No, I will not measure the success of my life against the success of someone else’s.
No, I will not look to fashion magazines to give me an idea of what I should look like.
No, I will not think badly about someone who is “better” than me at something.
No, I will not get depressed because I’m not “where I should be” at this point in my life.
Yes, I will create the home I love based on the things we love and the things that represent us.
Yes, I will parent my child in the way I think is best for him, not in the way that other people think is best for their children.
Yes, I will choose to study something that I interested in, not something that will give me a stable job.
Yes, I will spend my money wisely and use it to buy what I need, not what other people need.
Yes, I will think about myself with love, I will speak to myself with grace, and I will be kind to my life.
Each thought gives me permission to think, live and love differently. A better way, a way that is not entwined in an unhealthy way with other people.
Today, give yourself permission to stop comparing yourself and your life to other people.
We’re keeping it short, simple and not-very-sweet today.
The internet feeds comparison. Social media feeds comparison. The time all of us spend online empowers us to compare more.
Do I look the way I should? How can I get better hair? Better eyes? ______ got married, and I’m not, how come she’s able to find a husband and I’m not? Everyone has children, we don’t. Everyone’s children are better behaved and cuter than ours. _______ lost so much weight and looks amazing, why can’t I?
I have no research to support this, but I am convinced that there is a direct correlation with the daily struggle to compare and the time we spend online.
So today’s task for myself and for all of us is simple – unplug. Spend the day offline. See what happens. Do you find that you think differently? What will you do with the extra time? Spend another day offline. Spend the week offline.
I’ve spent several days without using the computer in the last few months, and those days were filled with fresh things and ease in my spirit. It was so good. I have never made it a week, but who knows what can happen. We convince ourselves that we need the internet, and yes it does make our lives easier. I convert measurements from ounces to grams in seconds, I find the current time in Sri Lanka easily and am able to research the best car seat for Small One. But let’s be ruthless with ourselves – how much time is spent online for information that we needand how much is spent just moving from one page to another and inevitably thinking about our lives in comparison with other people’s? I know what the answer is for me – I spend much more time in camp two than in camp one.
So here’s to a day offline, and here’s hoping for more of them in the months to come.
It is almost impossible for me to download new photos because I am warned each time that our disk is almost full. Husband took hundreds and hundreds of photos of Small One. There are 207 photos of his first day of life, 149 of his second. I won’t count the rest because it would cause a small organization panic in my mind, never mind the overload it is causing our Macbook’s brain as evidenced by excruciatingly slow everything.
Just like I fill my Macbook with information, I fill myself with thoughts. The computer is close to having had enough, and in the same way, if our minds are overloaded with the kinds of lies that come with comparison, it too needs a break. Our minds need renewal. Thinking differently. Choosing our thoughts, choosing our information, staying away from the lies, filling up with truth.
One of the ways I try to avoid discipline scenarios with Small One is to teach him skills before a certain situation becomes an issue. So when he took tupperware containers out of the kitchen cupboards, I didn’t say no, I let him do it, but he learned that he must put back everything he took out. He is so good at it now that most things he takes out, he tries his hardest to return to its proper place.
Last week he moved rocks from his Oma’s garden into the path. One rock at a time. Occasionally, Small One brought a rock to me as a gift with a smile on his face then scurried to the plot of rocks to take another one out. When it was time to go inside, I asked him to take each rock and put it back its place. It’s an easy task for adults. We would collect as many rocks as we could in our hands, and dump it in the pile. Small One takes one rock at a time, walks back to the plot and puts it in and repeats. The effort seems huge. He has to use lots of muscles, energy and focus.
Emptying our mind of comparison thoughts looks like this. The effort is not easy; it requires attention, patience and commitment.
If only I could earn a bigger salary like _____.
When the thought comes, bid it farewell.
My husband doesn’t take me on date’s like _____’s does.
Stop thinking about it.
I wish my hair was like _______.
Make the thought go away.
One rock at a time. Move one rock at a time. One thought at a time. Get rid of one thought at a time. Rock by rock. Thought by thought.
Driving has freaked me out for as long as I can remember. There is no better way to say it because the fear is irrational and unfounded. The idea of being on the road, with other vehicles in motion around me and people walking around and those wretched cyclists. The responsibility feels too heavy, too much.
But this isn’t about my driving; it is about the process of how we stop comparing ourselves to other people, which reminds me of a driving technique I had to learn to pass the Victorian driving test in 2007. My aunty took me on practice drives around our area in Chirnside Park, and I remember her telling me when we arrived at a stop sign, Devi, you need to come to a full stop, and you have to wait until your body moves backward from the stop. If you don’t wait for that, you will fail the test on the spot.
It stayed with me, and I passed that part of my driving test (and the whole thing, but that’s a different story).
Our first step in dealing with comparison is the recognition that comparison is wrong, something we do not want in our lives. And our second step is to make the decision to come to a complete stop, to end our mental and emotional relationship with comparison, and to stop engaging in comparison’s thoughts. Not a partial stop, to just quickly check one side of the road, but a complete, full stop, a stop that gives us freedom, protection and time.
I want to emphasize the phrase “make the decision” because before we can apply any skills to how we stop thinking in terms of comparison, we have to decide that we are no longer going to participate in this lifestyle. We have to make the choice to leave comparison island, to end our relationship with comparison and to say no to it as a lifestyle choice; it’s a decision we have to first make with our mind before we can start to think about what actions to take.*
Here’s the question I’m asking myself and you today: Am I willing to commit to living a life without comparison in it?
* I owe this idea to this course that I took two years ago, excellent material and life-changing ideas.