I’m sure you have heard the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy”, but have you ever thought about what the concept means to you personally? Does all comparison bring us pain, or is there a healthy way to compare ourselves to others? I believe that recognizing what comparison means to us on a personal level is the key to satisfaction… and that it also unlocks the door to better understanding and self-improvement.
This will be a long read, but there is a free journal page to download at the end!
For a long time, I thought I was hiding my personal dissatisfaction from others at least as well as I hid it from myself. I got so good at lying to myself, in fact, that despite others actually vocalizing how awful my self-talk was, I remained convinced that I was a kind person who just exaggerated things to “take the edge off”. While I was for the most part kind to other people, I had forgotten the golden rule… as above, so below.
As above, so below.Hermes Trismegistus, Hermetic Corpus
A bitter heart doesn’t exactly bear sweet fruit… unless you use a whole lot of artificial sweetener. Or in my case, make up a bunch of reasons why other people are better than me, why they deserve different things in their lives, etc. What this looked like in practice was me extending an almost extreme form of kindness to others, and verbally explaining or justifying why they were deserving of it. But since I wasn’t holding space for them to be different than my explanation, I was putting a lot of pressure on people to “BE” a certain way in order to justify how I treated them. And the other side of that coin was the people who had wronged me…
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.William Congreve, The Mourning Bride
Those whose names were written on my naughty list were subject to a similar treatment as my own tortured soul. With my kindness toward other people as a justification that I really was a nice person, I would go off on verbal rampages against those whose actions had harmed or offended me. Citing the work of legitimate stand-up comedians, I would justify insults and exaggerations… you know, to make it funny. And sometimes it WAS funny… but much of the time, it was just overcompensating for the real feelings and fears that I couldn’t bring myself to face. The truth was that I hated myself, and on a very deep subconscious level I believed that I was fundamentally awful and undeserving of happiness.
Before you start feeling sorry for me, let me cite Newton’s Third Law: “Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.” Put another way, when you feel inferior to some people, it means you also feel superior to others. Those times when I finally recognized how my own behavior had changed from kindness to cruelty, I cited the behavior of others as the “reason” I had to respond in kind. I took my own intentions into account when judging myself, but never stopped to wonder if maybe the other person believed they had a good reason for whatever they did?
When you feel inferior to some people, it means you also feel superior to others.
This, my friends, is called “projection”. I wasn’t responding neutrally to what was happening in the moment. I was subconsciously projecting an unresolved internal conflict onto the situation and blending the two together to draw conclusions about WHY it was happening. I was using my subconsciously-biased experience of the situation as evidence to support the belief that I was inferior to others. And because that felt bad, I was blaming the entities in the current situation for making me feel bad. But they weren’t making me feel bad… I was making me feel bad.
Pity party for one? No, thank you… I’ve already done that.
The way we treat ourselves generally mirrors the way we were treated by our caretakers when we were young. I won’t get into specifics about this today, but after years of rumination and blaming others for making me feel “not good enough”, I finally learned the secret to peace within… anything you believe, you bought into. You didn’t learn everything you know by reading a book, or sitting in on a class. At some point you had to commit to learning it. Most of us either bought into the belief that people behave the way they do because of who we are fundamentally, or because of who they are fundamentally.
If you often blame yourself for how other people treat you… this pep talk is for you. Despite all the stuff that happened that wasn’t your fault, at some point you betrayed you. You lost faith in yourself and believed the things said to you out of frustration or exhaustion or whatever. That doesn’t make you a bad person, but it does make you responsible for your own bad feelings. And since you’re responsible, you have the power to change. Especially when things are out of your control, the power to decide your own feelings is greater than the combined power of useless anger, poisonous resentment, and bitterly holding onto what “never should have happened”.
I’m not saying it’s easy to change, but I’m saying that it’s possible. I did it, and it brought me a level of peace and clarity that I had never experienced before. It wasn’t quick and it wasn’t easy, but it was totally worth it.
If you recognize even a little bit of yourself in my words, consider downloading the free journaling pages below. (You can also use your own journal, or loose leaf paper.) Find a quiet space, light a candle or oil warmer if it helps you relax, and allow yourself to write out your thoughts about the journal prompt. Don’t worry too much about staying focused; when your mind wanders, try to just acknowledge the thoughts or feelings that popped up, and keep pivoting back to the task at hand.
Thanks for reading, and please leave a comment below if you found this helpful!