It used to happen whenever you ran into your high school classmate out of nowhere. You chat about the basics and try to gauge what they have done in their life, you answer questions about yours. If time and environment allows, you dig into the lives of people you commonly know. An episode of “where are they now?” while the powerful processor between your shoulders does what it does best in the background. Compare, reference and evaluate.
Comparing is innate to that complicated organ of yours. It's how it survived centuries of evolution by keeping the body fed, safe and innovating to adapt in an ever changing environment and challenges of living. But It used to know when to compare and when not to.
Now you have another powerful processor in the the palm of your hands and it seems to have jurisdiction over your thoughts. You take everywhere you go and it knows everybody.
The folks you went to school with, that coworker you disliked but follow anyway, your ex's current lover, that friend you've left in your past, your favorite celebrities whose lives were otherwise inaccessible if it wasn't for the tabloid covers you glanced at by the checkout lane, and most are doing great!
No, actually , they're all doing fantastic!
Everyone is traveling and having beautiful babies, being proposed to or throwing a picture perfect wedding party, reads or have something wise to say so they must have figured life out, is starting their own business and being their own bosses, has glowing skin and mad makeup skills with eyebrows full and arched just right.
You think you'd know better than to let your social media feeds affect your perception of reality but thats exactly what you end up doing. Altering your perception of reality and letting it bring you down by comparing someone's best to your blah and even your worst. You've heard and agreed that comparison is the thief of joy and still you allow in and lead it right into our stash. It leaves you feeling down, like the world is passing you by, that what you do is never going to be enough. Who you are is not enough.
You've been bit by the comparison bug and contentment is the first of your vitals to suffer.
Maybe you come across someone and you note to yourself that you are better off than they are. You enjoy a short-tern surge of dominance, feeding a habit that is guaranteed to leave you inferior to someone else.
Have you ever paused to ask why you do that? Maybe pushed on to wonder what you can do to cure yourself? Here are a few of my guesses. You guessed it, from personal experience!
1) You assume you're seeing the full picture
Coming from a person who derives pleasure out of honest storytelling, doing it in it's present form is another level of difficult I am yet to master. Let's face it, ills we overcome do sometimes return, we are constantly making choices that determine how we feel and we are bound to make not-so-good ones sometimes.
Question is, how many of us are open about those, as much as we are about our best moments? Even people who own their shortcomings and embrace life to it's fullest expression including their challenges are reluctant and often unable to show the world in real time when life isn't picture perfect.
Always remind yourself, there's more to the order, wit, humor, smile, calm. It's called the reality of humanity. You are only seeing the end result of the efforts and the moments that individual wants you to see.
2) You have an image of success and it looks a certain way
The world taught you of your uniqueness, waited for you to believe it and then fed you a bunch of set model norms about what it means to be successful, defined what the sequence of achievements should be. As a result, instead of forging a path of discovery into yourself to find out your unique destination and what it may feel like to arrive there, you have gobbled up a checklist that you are constantly comparing yourself and others to.
This is the easiest way to feel like you are always falling short.
You must find out what makes your heart sing and chase that. It's ok if you are yet to discover that or if you are in the phase of doing what you need to survive or both. Always seek to find what your unique way forward is, as it bases itself in being better than you were the day before. Wholesome and true success always lies on the other end of uncovering YOUR passion and going in alignment with YOUR sequence at YOUR pace.
3) You think seasons are only on the calendar
Have you noticed lately? No living thing flourishes at all times.
Some hibernate while others stretch up and get hunting, some blossom while others whiter to regenerate, some begin new journeys while others conclude ones they have started, some get born into life while others leave it.
It is going against the order of life, hence a story of endless suffering, to need to remain in a state of productivity. Forget what the motivational speaker told you about maximizing your output at all times. You are not a machine.
Be compassionate and patient with yourself when you are in a slow phase. Instead of insisting to be in someone else's season of bloom, stay present in your state of metamorphosis. Gather up your potential, use it to connect with yourself and the universe to project your vision for the seasons to come, to spread your wings so that when your season dawns, you are ready to fly and not stuck in a space where you need not remain.
4) You are centered in the ego
If you want good things to happen to you, how easy is it to reap joy from someone's else's state of fulfillment? It should be, if you have learned to tame the ego which often tends to marinate in selfishness.
You may find that the perfect antidote to envy is appreciation and gratitude. When you compare yourself to someone and feel a sense of jealousy rising within you, go ahead and congratulate them. Acknowledge their joy and their accomplishments, maybe challenge yourself to commend them, show them your support. If done with authenticity, this will instantly transform and immerse you in a state of bliss. As you are reading this on your gadget of choice, chances are that you already have so much to be grateful for. Never lose sight of that.
Similarly, if you have the need to feel better than others to validate yourself, you are also living under the command of the ego. While comparing yourself with others with the intent of improving yourself may not be a bad idea and can often be beneficial, the moment your self worth gets in the equation, there's trouble. It then becomes a slippery slope down to the misery of either short-lived superiority or destructive self loathing.
Separate your worth from your achievements or your performances. Stop deriving your esteem from how you look or what your finances have to say. When you unconditionally validate and love yourself, your need to 'have' or 'become' cease to rule your life. You will then be living beyond the ego where you will not suffer the pain of comparison there, be it fleeting euphoria or lasting depression.
By allowing yourself to be just who you are and where you are while at the same time extending that freedom to others, you'd have cured yourself from the comparison bug.
"When you go out into the woods, and you look at trees, you see all these different trees. And some of them are bent, and some of them are straight, and some of them are evergreens, and some of them are whatever. And you look at the tree and you allow it. You see why it is the way it is. You sort of understand that it didn't get enough light, and so it turned that way. And you don't get all emotional about it. You just allow it. You appreciate the tree. The minute you get near humans, you lose all that. And you are constantly saying 'You are too this, or I'm too this.' That judgment mind comes in. And so I practice turning people into trees. Which means appreciating them just the way they are." - Ram Dass.