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.