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We have all heard the saying: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
I want to propose that we take a closer look at comparison.
There is a truth that what we can see in others is also present in ourselves. We can see things we judge about others only because they are a part of us as well. As much as we like to think we are better than those we judge, we have what they have. It may not present the same way, but if you dig deep enough, you can find similar threads within yourself.
The same is true in reverse. When we see someone who inspires us, it is because a part of us resonates with their strength, beauty, or intelligence. We have something similar inside of us as well.
Comparison is a sneaky little thing. It comes in and makes us feel less than. We think that someone else has it better than we do. Or conversely, we think, somehow, we are better.
How can comparison be a superpower?
What we can see in others, we have within ourselves. Therefore, when we compare ourselves against someone else, it is because something about them is triggering an unacknowledged or unexpressed part of us.
It is our minds’ way of letting us know how we can step into our full potential.
When I was in my mid-20s, I went to a yoga class. There was a girl in the class who I instantly started comparing myself to. She had a perfectly matching yoga outfit, an awesome bag, and her hair looked awesome.
Then I looked at myself.
I was wearing a shirt that was too big. It definitely did not match my pants. My hair was a frizzy mess in a weird bun. I felt like I had rolled down a frumpy hill and landed on my yoga mat, whereas she had just stepped out of a magazine.
I left the class feeling annoyed at myself that I was not more put together. Why couldn’t I get my stuff together enough to look like she did? My mind was saying that I would never be as good as her. I felt like she was the standard I should be aiming for, and I was endlessly falling short. I felt annoyed, resentful, and hopeless.
I didn’t know then what I know now about comparison.
If I did, I would have been able to see that in my comparison, I was revealing an unexpressed part of myself. The part that desired to step more into my femininity and beauty.
Not in a superficial, egotistical way. But to express myself and celebrate who I am. What I really saw in her was an untapped part of myself.
Within me, there was someone who wanted to value my beauty more and put in the effort to look a certain way. I was not acknowledging that part of myself.
We can harness comparison when we switch the question from “how are they better than me?” to “what is it about them that I admire?”
When we ask what do we admire, we get our power back.
We can then look at ourselves and evaluate the way that particular element wants to be expressed through us.
For me, I could have acknowledged that I really admired her clothing choice and appearance. I could have then decided to invest in clothes that I felt good in, and acknowledged that beauty was important.
From there, I could start to feel more confident in myself as the best version of me. Not because I was trying to look like her, but because I had looked within and found how I wanted to live.
The beautiful thing about this is that both people get to be celebrated.
My original feelings of annoyance and resentment could have changed to appreciation. I could have been thankful for the fact that she was expressing herself in that way. In doing so, she was calling me to step forward as my best self as well.
Comparison is really a wake-up call to become more of who we are.
And there are also times when we compare but the other way around.
“I am so much better than she is.”
“How could she do that? Be that way? Say that?”
We don’t like to admit that these thoughts are present, but sometimes they are.
What is happening here is, again, a gift.
When that comparison happens, it is because there is an unacknowledged or unaccepted part of ourselves.
For me, I used to repress my emotions. I was incredibly lost because of it. When I encounter those who aren’t in touch with their emotions, or are lost—I start to compare.
I start to think how much better I am that I have done the work to understand emotions.
I put myself on a pedestal.
When the truth is, I am not integrating or accepting that old part of me. The part of me that didn’t know how to feel feelings. The part that wanted to desperately “get out,” but had no idea how. I am shunning that part of myself.
When I compare, I am revealing to myself how much I am not accepting who I am or who I have been.
The shift comes when we go from, “I am so much better than them,” to “how is what I am seeing present in me in some way?”
It takes humility and a hearty dose of self-honesty.
When we can accept and integrate who we are now and who we have been, we will find that we are much more accepting of people in all stages of life.
Comparison is the thief of joy? If you sit in it as is, yes. It will leave you feeling miserable and disconnected from your true nature.
But when we harness comparison as our superpower, it can be a source of great joy and strength.
In the end, the greatest show of wisdom is how well you can love.