A Life of Comparison

 by Suzanne Anderssen, Brisbane, Australia 

When I was a little girl, it became clear to me that the more I did and achieved, the more people noticed, rewarded, accepted and applauded me. So of course, I then set out to achieve more – to be the best at pretty much anything I set my mind to.

And this actually was pretty easy, as I got great school grades without really trying and was quite athletic, so I was pretty much better than everyone else at everything I did. Anything I didn’t perform well at, I gave up! 

The problem with doing this, is that everything I then did was scored against what another is, or had done. Any measure of my own worth or value (which I determined by my ability to do stuff) was externally gained, as I compared myself to others – boys, girls, men, and women.

As I got older, the comparisons never let up. There was pretty much nothing that I didn’t compare myself to, be it sporting prowess, academic studies, body shape, hairstyles, makeup, how many friends I had, boyfriends, how tanned I was, how fast I read a book, my job, what my wedding dress looked like, how healthy my baby was… the list was endless.

And of course, comparison always led to competiveness. This meant I lived in such a way that I never felt good enough, I could always do better or more. The accolades for scoring highly were awesome for about five minutes, but then time moved on and there was something else that could be done. I never even really celebrated much.

The thing though, was that doing well – although easy – was always empty. When I was congratulated for achieving, I was polite and said ‘thank you’, but really what I was feeling was “what’s the big deal?”. Whilst my achievements were great, I knew there were others who still achieved more, so I never felt good enough. Oddly though, whilst I craved doing well, I just knew it wasn’t truly important, and yet the competitiveness was still there. I could never just be happy with my efforts. I knew that I had performed well, but so what? This feeling only made me keep comparing and looking out to what others do, as I thought the reason I didn’t feel so great when I had done well, meant that I wasn’t even doing well enough! I even used to think that maybe I wasn’t performing at the ‘right’ things, or that there were more important things to be good at. I put so much mental effort into comparisons and making certain I did well, and yet what good did it do if I never appreciated my efforts?

Through my early thirties, my competitiveness with the big, external things, such as who won Wimbledon, waned. I couldn’t care less. Great! I had lost my competitive ‘edge’ I thought, but the internal comparisons never silenced. I came to realise that it was these internal comparisons that were far more insidious than caring about a particular sporting team. Every time I pit myself against another, I felt nervous. I had a tense, butterflies-like feeling in my stomach quite constantly. I started to feel how harming this was to me.

When I found my way to the teachings of Universal Medicine, I became so much more aware of the need I had always had to compare myself. I realised I had made my life all about what I thought the world wanted of me, and not that I was fundamentally great just being me. That realisation was slow to come. I was re-learning a different, more natural way to live that was based on how one does everything, how it feels in the body. In the beginning though, this knowledge of how to live gently became yet another field to compare myself with and compete against others. Two steps forward, one step back!

It all fell apart when I was asked to feel for myself. Immediately, I looked outside to see what everyone else was feeling so I could compare it with me – and came up with nothing! Eventually I asked myself this: if I’ve spent a lifetime watching how everyone else does it first, and then modifying my behaviour to fit in and exceed, how would I even be able to feel clearly for myself? My body had been shut down for so long that it has been (and still is) a long process to trust in me. But with this trust, I can then do, in a way that feels right for me – and not because I am trying to outdo someone else.

Slowly it became less about what and how others saw me, and more about how I felt I wanted to be, for me. My outlook changed and the need to compare has slowly fallen away. This took the pressure off for the first time in my life.

I’ve realised, with a lot of time and patience, that who I am is awesome, and is perfect for where I need to be. The who I am matters far more than what I do. As I master my competitive spirit, the genuine love I have for myself increases and leaves more room in my body for the things that do really matter.

462 thoughts on “A Life of Comparison

  1. Huge stuff to undo, but really worth to do it, which in fact is coming back to who we always were. .. not big stuff in the end, as this ‘huge’ gets reduced gradually by that choice of being anchored within ourselves again. Way back home full of understanding..

  2. “The who I am matters far more than what I do.” The hamster wheel of comparison gets us nowhere and confines us to the individualism of never thinking we are enough.

  3. “And of course, comparison always led to competitiveness.” They really do go together and I find it can be quite subtle at times. Thanks for your honest sharing on comparison, the more I look for comparison in myself to heal and clear it, the more I find. We are literally soaked in it because so much of life is about what we do or our outer achievements, and this occurs from a very early age. If we were all to stop and just feel our true inner being we would feel both the alike-ness of our inner essence, and the different way we each express that. Rather than it being a one-up competition, it could instead be an appreciation of our collective beauty. In our essence there is that deep contentment and a sense of being filled with ourselves, but in the comparison and competitiveness it’s a continual unrest, we can never feel settled because it can never deliver anything except very temporary relief from our inner emptiness.

  4. “The accolades for scoring highly were awesome for about five minutes, but then time moved on and there was something else that could be done. I never even really celebrated much.” Competition and achievements are empty and as a result, we can go into a repeating cycle of chasing more. It’s quite terrible really that this is how we develop children in home life and education to compare and compete, as once we label something as good we seem to then not question it or honestly look at the outcomes in the short and long term as to how comparison and competition affect our lives. Being the winner, the best, being good at something, etc, it’s still not being ourselves or being met for who we are.

    1. I am sure many of us have felt this and so can relate with the sharing, I know I can, ‘Competition and achievements are empty and as a result, we can go into a repeating cycle of chasing more.’

  5. Comparisons do lead to competitiveness this is so true and I am seeing this more and more even in really subtle ways. Both are evil and take us away from the truth of who we are and valuing and appreciating ourselves and others equally so.

  6. Oh wow. I really get a sense of how comparison is many, many, many steps away from the science of reflection. We need another body to know who we are, but the energy of comparison abuses the constellation (= the placement of bodies) to locate and further ingrain us within this domain, which is all about individuality, and it needs the scale of good and bad to verify its autonomy.

    1. Great comment Fumiyo and expansion on the conversation, that I you. Instead of receiving the reflection we internalise a dialogue of being less or more and in that we react, instead of the observation, inspiration, or learning on offer.

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