How many times a day do we compare our insides to someone else’s outsides?
Whether I’m at a 12-step meeting, with my friends, in a work environment, or with my family, I am absolutely guilty of comparing myself and what I’ve done with my life thus far to the people around me.
If I see someone who is externally successful, I automatically assume that they “have it all together” and assume that they don’t ever struggle with the same basic human tendencies that I can fall prey to.
I compare my relationship to everyone else’s, wondering if they are happier than we are. Wondering if they don’t ever experience fear, doubt, or pain in their relationship.
I compare my level of education, area of study, and career accomplishments.
I look at my blog and tell myself I haven’t written a book yet so I really haven’t done anything.
I get in my car in the morning and wonder how people work for themselves or start their own business and get to make their own schedules.
All of these comparisons can ultimately eclipse the gratitude and self-efficacy I have for who I am.
But what don’t we see?
We don’t see the massive amount of work that goes into success, whatever that means to a person. We don’t see the fear, self-doubt, and small failures along the way. We don’t see the tears and the sweat and the amount of hours that someone put into their journey.
We don’t see the sacrifices they may have had to make to get to where they are today.
I am often told by peers that I am “so lucky” to have completed my Bachelor’s and Master’s degree. That I am lucky I didn’t drop out of school during my addiction and continued on my path to become a therapist.
What they don’t see is the amount of times I’ve questioned my career.
What they don’t see is the stack of flashcards I had to memorize over and over again while I was telling myself that I was going to fail my licensing exam.
What they don’t see is that I actually failed my Maryland State Law exam, a prerequisite to becoming a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor.
What they don’t see, if they met me recently, is the amount of time I spent serving at restaurants and being spoken to like I was an object or subhuman, while customers demanded more sweet tea.
What they don’t see is the relationship that I put on the backburner to complete my Master’s degree in the United States, deferring my acceptance to a prestigious graduate school in England.
What they don’t see is the emptiness I felt the moment I graduated with my Master’s degree, not knowing what I wanted to do with my life or if this was something I would ever be successful doing.
What does comparing do for us?
Maybe it validates a certain core irrational belief we may have that we are ultimately not good enough, unworthy, or not reaching our peak potential.
I am always baffled when someone tells me that they were intimidated by me before we met or that they had assumptions about my personality.
I consider myself an awkwardly vulnerable, geeky, teenager-at-heart who still listens to British boy bands (I love One Direction, even if they aren’t a band anymore) and loves cartoons.
I consider myself painfully personable, to the point where I embarrass myself in social situations on a daily basis.
But this is not what people on the outside see.
Even as I’m writing these articles, spilling my pain and fear onto the keyboard, people can still put me on a pedestal. Even in the wake of significant vulnerability, we can compare our level of vulnerability and willingness to another person's.
What would it look like for us to take each other off the pedestal?
To stop assuming that everyone else is better or worse than us, and that we are simply all on the same journey? To acknowledge that we are all the same and all unique in our own ways at the same exact time?
Try to bring a level of mindfulness to your internal narrative.
What areas of life are you comparing yourself most to others?
What is lacking in your own life that you would like to expand?
What would it be like for you to stop putting other people on pedestals and rather let them come crashing down in the beautiful mess that is the human experience?
“We’re all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass
For me, I think there is a level of security and safety in believing that there are people who "have it all together." It scares me to think that most of us have no idea what we're doing, and simply doing the best we can with what we have. It's terrifying to imagine that no one has all of the answers, and that it is ultimately up to me to make my own path.
Even though it doesn't feed my ego to put myself down, there is a part of me that can still cling to the self-destructive tendency of believing I'm not as good as someone else.
What does comparing do for you?
Is it feeding a maladjusted belief that you aren't worthy?
Instead of looking up and out, try looking in.
You are enough.
You are perfectly imperfect, in the most magnificent way.