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There’s a lot of people that I could compare myself to, but I don’t, or at least I try to keep it to a minimum and I’m very conscious of where it’s likely to happen. It’s my inner critic, the surprising perfectionist in me that can rear its ugly head and put me back on the “I’m not good enough” path. There’s a multitude of reasons why engaging in the regular self-hacking that is comparison is a must-kick habit. There’s healthy comparison that’s used to positively learn from the insights and grow – like when you compare your skills not your worth to a peer – and then there’s the unhealthy comparison that is a hatchet job that leaves you wounded.
When I first started writing Baggage Reclaim back in September 2005, I would look around at other sites and be tweaking and chopping and changing. I very quickly realised that this would defeat the purpose of what I was doing and kill what makes it original in its own right before it had a chance to blossom. I don’t want it to be an identikit version of something else.
Throughout my entire career I’ve seen great people and great things crushed by unhealthy comparison because neither knew how to exist in their own right. They had short-lived periods of contentment but at the back of the person or the company’s mind, was this pervasive urge to keep comparing so they kept making more and more changes and in the end, they were unrecognisable… and not in a good way. We don’t question what we believe based on that comparison and end up going off on an illogical tangent.
Healthy comparison doesn’t detract; it adds and it might even motivate you.
Fact is, there will always be people to compare to who you will deem as “better” as long as you fundamentally find you unacceptable.
I’m not perfect and try as I might, I’m never going to be. Fact. I could spend the rest of my life attempting to get as close to perfection as possible and no doubt beating myself up for my ‘mistakes’ or ‘failures’ while I’m at it, plus I could keep estimating and measuring myself against others in areas where I’m already my harshest critic.
You’re always going to be vulnerable in the areas where you already judge you which means if you want to reduce the vulnerability, stop judging you. Nobody can use it against you when you’re not using it against you.
You’re not perfect and you’re not supposed to be. While you’re busy decimating and censoring who you are to try and replace it with who you ‘should’ be (you know that annoying voice that keeps piping up and trying to drown out your true identity), you’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater. You’re human and flawed like every other person on the planet so why keep busting your tail about something that really isn’t that special by focusing on your flaws?
Everybody has flaws and you can try and compare and go “Oh but they have less flaws than I do” but that’s bullshit borne out of you putting them on a pedestal and admiring them while putting you beneath them. Everybody has flaws it’s just that not all of us focus on them, not all of us see them in others (some of us do a mighty fine job of essentially sticking a pump up people’s bottoms and inflating them), and we’re not always in a position to be around someone when character is put to the test – we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.
I don’t know why we continue to pedal this myth to ourselves that we’re not good enough and everybody is living the hunkydory lifestyle when we all know of people who have been and done things that surprise us, and it’s not in a good way. And yet we continue to compare.
What makes a person is character. Sadly it’s not what we always look for in others, nor is it always what we appreciate in ourselves.
Let’s be real, some of us believe that superficial stuff like appearance and status is character and along with these, we can be guilty of assuming that wealth, intelligence, and even accomplishments being present in a person are automatic precursors to them having character. That’s why I hear from so many people who have been with beautiful/attractive/highly intelligent/popular… assclowns. If you’ve been in this position, you’ve taken a detour and forgotten that character is what shows how someone will treat you.
What we tend to overvalue in others or ourselves is what we tend to compare ourselves on, while attributing nil or a miniscule value to our character and what really matters. We may have literally no sense of our qualities and characteristics because we’ve spent our entire life comparing, for example, our appearance.
Oddly though, we can admire and even love people for what essentially boils down to superficial stuff that doesn’t rely on character and then feel wounded when we feel that they’ve not valued our character, which doesn’t make sense. How can you ignore code red issues and focus on the stuff that isn’t making a difference to how you’re treated or feel, but then feel bad about you not being valued by them beyond anything superficial?
We compare our appearance, accomplishments and even what we perceive to be our skills to others but these are the moving goalposts of life. We age, accomplishments can decrease in relevance and value, and skills evolve and in some cases, get replaced and automated in our modern world. Some of this stuff can be linked to your character but if it is, and for instance, your skills change, it doesn’t mean that your character has which is all the more reason why we shouldn’t see ourselves as a ‘failure’ (failed person).
All of these things change and can even be taken away, but what you cannot take away is character and it can and does exist while you’re being human, which means that you’re going to err in this life but it doesn’t mean that you’re not worthy.
It’s a hell of a lot easier to reduce comparison and it’s impact on you (which can literally be tormenting) when you are somebody you respect and you ultimately possess or are working on evolving into the characteristics and values that matter to you in others. When you respect your character and can appreciate you for the small, medium, and large-sized things that you do and are in your life, the changes you’ve made, the adversities you’ve overcome etc., you prioritise character and these aspects in others.
It doesn’t matter what other people are doing with their lives because it’s their lives and you focusing on their lives and hacking at you isn’t going to change the fact that you have your own life to put your stamp on and that you’re a unique person on a journey that you and only you will make. You can keep measuring you against others but it’s illogical and irrelevant, not least because you’re not the same and we each have different thinking and behavioural habits as well as experiences.
Does appearance, status etc open doors? Absolutely, but an open door doesn’t mean contentment beyond the door frame. There are a lot of people who have the things that you want but are unhappy or whose character undermines the very thing that you overvalue while devaluing you.
Why keep diminishing you with comparison? The more you do it, the less there is of you.
Instead of comparing, respect and appreciate what you do have, no matter how small you think that is because it paves the way to growth. There will always be something and someone you can compare to which is all the more reason why you’re on this journey to discover, reclaim, and appreciate you.
Natalie Lue is the founder and writer of Baggage Reclaim and author of the books Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl, The Dreamer and the Fantasy Relationship and more. Learn more about her here and you can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter – @baggagereclaim .
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