Working With the Habit of Comparing

The ways in which we compare ourselves to others often stops us from entering into our own joy.  And when we compare ourselves to others, it’s often a signal of an area of growth that we want for ourselves.  Comparing isn’t very generative, is it?  And yet we do this.

Recently this came up with a client who was moving into some new territory for herself and her business by taking a business development course.  Before the course began we had a session, and she was distinctly in that territory of comparing herself to everyone else on the course.  As it happens when we get into this territory, we often come up short.  Everyone else had more experience in business than her.  Everyone else had a current website.  Everyone else knew just what they wanted and she was still searching.  And she hadn’t even met these others yet!

I utterly understood her struggle, as I’d just been through my own version of comparing of late.  I’d just spent a gorgeous afternoon with a writer whose work I admire deeply.  We had an immensely rich conversation, full of joy and exploration.  But what I came away with is that I began to compare my writing life with his.  I came right up against myself here because what I asked was: Why can’t I just write instead of doing all this other work?!  He’s a better writer because he “just writes”.  He is utterly committed to his writing life and always has been.  I came up short because I am also a somaticist and a coach.  Hmm.

And then Margie Beiswanger said to me: “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

And then I remembered a Buddhist priest in Japan who I’d just met, who knew nothing about me, and who immediately said: “When you stop comparing, everything starts to happen.”

Both of these statements gave me pause.  Which is what I needed!  I even had a new thought that made me laugh.  This was to picture this writer I admired so waking up one day and saying: “Wow, I’m a writer, but look at Renée, she does coaching and somatic work, too!”  It was quite a twist to think of someone comparing themselves to me, rather than the other way around.  And of course this isn’t the answer, either!  But it was a jolt to consider the other side (even as this wouldn’t have been a good strategy for him, as it is not for me, or for you).

So, if comparison IS the thief of joy and if when we stop comparing our life can actually happen, then what is the antidote to this territory of comparison?

As with my client that I noted above, one thing is to test our assumptions, ask ourselves if they are true.  She assumed that everyone else on the course was “ahead of her” in some fashion.  But what does this really mean?  Why would anyone be taking a business development course who felt she had all the answers?  What really matters, as we began to unearth this, is that we each show up where we are, ask the questions we need to ask, engage from our own ground, be ourselves.

For my own version of comparing, I had to really dig into this question of identity.  And to even untangle myself from comparing my life as a writer to my life as a coach and teacher.  Why can’t they co-exist?  Why do I have to make myself less-than because I hold more than one vocation? I don’t have to.  I’m a committed writer and have been for many decades.  And I love the intimate work of coaching.  So be it. I want joy in both places.

So, where do you get caught in comparing yourself to others?  What is your particular place that you stop yourself by coming-up-short or holding back because you’re not as someone else is?  And what is your antidote to comparing?  What questions do you need to ask yourself or clarify so that you can step into your own joy?

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