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To Compare is To Despair April 27, 2011

Posted by Ann Bertorelli in Personal Observations.
Tags: , , , , , ,

(This is me..wasn’t I cute?)This is me at a dude ranch--not comparing anything.

So hi everyone. I have received tens of emails wondering where my posts have been for the last three weeks. I can only say that it’s been a combination of being a bit overwhelmed with stuff and my internet connection failing for two weeks in a row. But after spending much time with my computer, my router, and my modem,I am one with my electronics  and am back in business.

Were you intrigued by the title of today’s post? To compare is to despair. I learned that phrase from a friend of mine who has been successfully working a 12-step program for many years. One of the major goals of 12-step programs(as I understand it) is to give people the tools to handle their emotional/spiritual pain in a healthy way. And the tendency to compare ourselves (usually unfavorably) to others can cause a whole shit-load of pain.

How’d we start this anyway?

How do we come to this comparing stuff anyway? Experience and observation says that we hear these messages that we’re not quite measuring up to other people from the time we can understand language. “Look how well Susie cleans her plate,” “Tommy is a better batter than you are—you need to try harder,” “Sarah is a straight A student…if you would only apply yourself you could be like her.”

So we get into the habit of comparing ourselves to others as little whippersnappers and we just keep on going. But just because we become “adults” we aren’t suddenly immune to that habit. I recently had someone compare me to another person and find me wanting and didn’t I just buy into it?

Assessments are not true

But when I returned to sanity (a relative construct, to be sure) I realized that when someone compares me to another and finds me lacking he (or she) is simply offering an assessment of me. And my often-repeated mantra about assessments is that none of them are true. So if none are true and I am getting cozy with one that makes me feel like crap, well, maybe, just maybe, I should go with another one that makes me feel good.

If someone offers me the lovely assessment that I am negative and judgmental and acting out of alignment with my spiritual beliefs and thus comparing me with some mythical ‘saint,’ I can swallow it hook, line and sinker and feel awful about myself or I choose to look at it differently. I could instead say that I am doing the very best I can with the tools that I have and the actions I know to do. And that when I can be more loving and less judging I will.

What makes you unique and very cool?

Comparing ourselves to others is appropriate if we’re trying to set a new world record in some endeavor. But most of the time it’s not a productive enterprise. Instead why not try to focus on what it is about you that makes you a unique part of the world? Why not tell yourself that you don’t have to be like everyone else because truly you are not the same as anyone else.

Gifts Differing

Isabel Briggs Myers wrote a book which she called Gifts Differing in which she explored the 16 personality types that she identified as part of her life work—better known as the MBTI. She did not entitle the book Strengths Lacking. I love the point she made by choosing that title. We are all uniquely positioned to make an impact on the world based on the strengths we innately have.

Try this…

List 10 things you love about yourself. Yes, right here, right now.You can do it! And when you’ve finished it, slap those puppies up everywhere and focus on them daily. Revel in the fact you are pretty damn good. No compare, no despair.

‘Nuff said…



1. Jane - April 28, 2011

So glad that you are back on line and back on your blog. Great post for me this week. We’ve had another week of “upscale jail time” as we wait each day for workmen. I caught myself feeling lonely, sad and envious of you and that fun book group gathering. So yesterday was a day of prayer, reading, sewing and bike riding. Working on gratitude, acceptance, patience and kindness to all. Guess what, this morning I met a delightful woman at the dogpark who just moved to town 8 weeks ago and already we’re exchanging emails. You’re so right, your beliefs are not truth, they are just what you believe to be true and you can always challenge them.
PS Love the cowgirl look!

edgyangel - April 29, 2011

Thanks for the comment. I’m so glad the post came at an appropriate time for you. I know writing it was therapeutic for me. And in truth, if we step back from our lives a little we realize we have nothing to despair about. We are so blessed…

2. Karen Talavera - April 27, 2011

What a great modern take on the wisdom of Buddha, “Comparison is the source of all suffering” is what I believe he said. I’ve lived that one!

The thing that undermines most about comparison, in my experience, is that it keeps us outward-focused rather than inward-centered. No wonder suffering ensues.

Whenever I catch myself holding a yardstick to my efforts, accomplishments, life, or whatever against someone else’s, I remind myself what a fruitless exercise it is. The best antidote seems to be to get into action doing what I want and love. Funny how I forget all about comparing when I’m living my truth and passions instead.

Funny too how when I’m doing what inspires me to the best of my ability, even imperfect seems perfect. On the contrary, when I’m doing what I think I “should” because so-and-so is doing it, perfect never seems good enough.

edgyangel - April 28, 2011

Karen–thanks for the comment and the reinforcement about this. It is so easy to fall into these ego-induced stupors and sometimes a bit challenging to leave them behind. I like what you said about getting involved in something you love as an antidote. Blessings…

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