One of the common issues that I work on with clients is with making comparisons – comparing themselves with others.
That’s not the issue.
It is the conclusions that we draw from that comparison that is the issue. All too commonly it is yet another stick that we use to beat ourselves up with. We see that others own this and we don’t, that they have this relationship and we don’t, that they have this job and we don’t, a particular perceived status and we don’t. And so on. The list is endless if we want the list to be endless. There’s always something we can find if that’s what we’re looking for.
What we’re looking for is the perceived ‘lack’ in ourselves. If we are happy with what we have or how we feel about ourselves then what others have isn’t the issue.
We only react to things we care about.
Physically it can be about what we feel is ‘wrong’ about us – maybe it’s too much weight, or too little, ‘bad’ teeth (not white enough, not perfect enough). It can be anything. It’s our own vulnerability about that aspect of ourselves that keeps it in our awareness and keeps us looking out for proof of it by comparing to others.
I always notice eyebrows. Why? Because I don’t really have any. I do, but they’re faint and now they’re turning white!
I’m not particularly worried, or embarrassed. It is what it is. But I’m aware enough to know that I do tend to focus on how wonderful everybody else’s eyebrows are. Notice the generalisation I made? It’s an assumption. I will ignore anybody who has unimpressive eyebrows (by my standards) and only notice the ones that are impressive (by my standards).
I’ve chosen a physical example but it can be any aspect of the human experience.
I compare myself to others all the time. Comparisons I make are with other therapists and how they work. What work they’ve published, what articles they’ve written, how successful they are as a brand, as a business, in marketing, etc. Why? Because if something is being done well then there’s something to learn from them.
I’m not less than them (I’ve done a fair bit of work in this area so I’m confident about saying that). So what is it that they’ve done that I can do, or learn from to create that same level of success?
I compare how fast I swim when I go swimming. I know the pace of the regular swimmers and I can gauge how I’m swimming against them. It keeps me going, pushing me to improve. It’s useful.
When I don’t have it then I find it harder. This morning I had the lane to myself for about 15 minutes. In one way it was lovely to have that freedom to swim at my pace, I also noticed that the lack of others meant I wasn’t able to gauge how I was doing. It was less interesting too and so when somebody else joined the lane I was very pleased.
Unhelpful comparisons to others is about our relationship to ourselves. We believe that we’re not good enough as we are. That essentially we are somehow less than others. It’s not true.
You might be lacking in knowledge or other helpful resources, but those can be acquired. I’m talking about you, who you are right now.
Often we’re comparing ourselves to others and finding ourselves wanting in areas that we’re not interested in. A reinforcement of not being enough and not being good enough.
Acceptance is the beginning of change.
Persistence maintains and develops change.
As I’ve said before, hope is not a strategy. We have to take action and decide to start the process of acceptance and change. It’s surprising to my clients how quickly this can be achieved. This is one of the benefits of my conversational use of my experience and interpretation of Provocative Therapy and PCW. It challenges the unhelpful thinking and beliefs and creates space for you to decide what is more helpful for you.
I’d welcome hearing from you about your experiences of comparisons – helpful or unhelpful – just contact me.