We’re into what I call the 12 Weeks of Self-Esteem Torment which starts in the run up to Thanksgiving and Christmas/The Holidays, and finally eases up after Valentine’s Day. This week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions is a two-parter on comparison, which is behind a hell of a lot of what stresses us out and triggers low mood and anxiety. This first part focuses on what comparison is, who we compare to and about what, why we do it, the connection with perfectionism and shame, and also why comparison is a habit.

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Some nuggets from the episode

  • Comparison, the act and habit of estimating ourselves against others and judging us as superior or inferior, is a form of self-harm, especially when done persistently.
  • All humans compare, but we need to be vigilant about and discern the difference between comparing to genuinely learn from and be inspired by, and comparison carving. Healthy comparison doesn’t detract; it adds, and it might even motivate you.

Examples of people we compare ourselves to:

  • People we literally cannot be — taller, shorter, a different race or colour, younger, older. Why are you comparing yourself to someone who’s twenty years younger? And who were you comparing you to when you were that age?
  • People in the public eye — reality stars, models, actors. Those who sell their lifestyle. e.g. influencers
  • Our younger self from a romanticised version of our past where we imagine that if only we’d stayed just like that, things would be better now.
  • Peers, especially anyone who we feel that we are similar to but not ‘keeping up’ and people who we, whether it’s consciously or not, we feel superior to. We feel as if we should have what they have or be better. 
  • People we don’t even like or want to be like, but who we think we ’should’ be like.
  • People from our past that we were routinely compared to or that we competed with.

Most of what we’re comparing ourselves to and about is based on unrealistic standards that we can’t possibly live up to (and often secretly don’t want to). 

  • Comparison triggers shame. It’s the fear that we are not enough, that we are a ‘bad’ person or that we have done something bad. We decide that there’s no point, and we withdraw and behave in ways that reflect feeling unworthy of intimacy, connection, growth, etc.
  • When we allow us to be more than who we’ve been; to move on from the past; to recover from a mistake or a failure, that is a growth mindset, because we believe that who we are hasn’t already been determined. 
  • A perfectionist is someone who holds themselves to unrealistic standards by attempting to be perfect or to look perfect to others. Or, yes, who beats themselves up for not being ‘good enough’.

Sometimes what we’re comparing ourselves to is “better” version of us. An idealised version.

  • When you believe that you’re not good enough, that is a fixed mindset. Otherwise, in instances where things don’t go as you would like, you wouldn’t blame your worthiness.
  • We want to be someone who doesn’t do this, but it’s important to recognise that whoever you’re comparing to is a habit you’ve built.
  • Comparison might be a security blanket that you’ve wrapped yourself in for some time.

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Listener questions can be emailed to podcast AT baggagereclaim DOT com and if there’s a topic you’d love me to talk about, let me know!

Nat xxx

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