Comparison and Self-Criticism: Can You Say Toxic?
Oh lordy! The things we say and do to ourselves can be quite the mixed bag.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” ~Theodore Roosevelt
By the time we get to comparing ourselves to others, there has been no joy. What motivates us to look at the lives of other people and think they have it better in some capacity, while diminishing ourselves? It never brings us to a happy finish line.
Joy, happiness and freedom do not appear simply because we’ve finally beat the Joneses and have everything promised in the American Dream. If we’re too busy focusing on what we don’t have, it is a statement about our inner world.
We’re in a state of lack. We feel less than and our inner critic is nipping at our heels.
The Curse of the Joneses
I lived in the hell of comparison for a good portion of my life. When I was young and felt about as attractive as beef stew, I thought prettier women had it easier. This obsessing over what was wrong with me and comparing myself continued for a couple of years. Until I got past the attractiveness ‘thing’ regarding my appearance and moved on to other points to compare myself to in life.
Get married, spawn some babies, have a couple of cars, a beautiful house, look freakin’ perfectly put together, appear to have no emotions and call myself a Stepford Wife. Okay, I wouldn’t go that far, but really in that part of my life, someone else always had a better something.
The more better all of these signs showed up, because I had ‘arrived’ in a certain lifestyle, the less satisfied I was in my life and ultimately, as my ex-husband put it as I left our marriage; I was choosing a life over a lifestyle.
Of course I continued comparing my life to others, which kept me stuck in relationships too long for fear of not letting go of ‘my one and only’ chance at whatever my inner state of lack was transmitting at the time.
The Inner Critic
What the hell was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I get it right? Others thought I had it right because I could really pull off the “I have my shit together” look. But inside I felt like a mess.
Why could someone else have a happy, healthy relationship while I attracted people who weren’t really a fit? Or where there was some major obstacle preventing us from hooking up to a pony and riding off into the sunset together? Why did it always seem like if someone else was successful, I wasn’t working hard enough? Why, why, why? Cue the inner critic!
That inner critic would start off by saying, “Well you’re too much, not enough, different, invisible, too loud, too quiet, too masculine, too feminine, you don’t deserve to be happy, you haven’t done enough yet,” and so on. Sound familiar?
The Contradiction in Criticism
I finally realized no matter what someone or something appeared to be, it had no bearing on their level of happiness. That’s the point at which I stopped comparing.
I mean, if I was to look at comparing now, Facebook is a breeding ground for bullshit, right? People talking about their resume of accomplishments to show the rest of the world their incomparable level of happiness, and anyone who wants to give their two cents should back off, right?
I have had clients tell me how looking at someone’s posts on Facebook is detrimental to their well-being because of how they feel ‘less than’ by comparison. They see friends having babies when they’re not, or getting married when they’re not or even entering relationships, and the whole while they’re having an inner dialogue about how they have apparently missed the marks in life and… what the hell is wrong with him or her?!!
The list goes on. If you have an inner critic that was spawned from the gates of hell like mine, here are a few things you can do to shut it up, stop comparing and start living!
- Don’t resist or argue with your inner critic. Treat it like your drunken neighbor: Put a pillow over your head and count sheep or just let it wail away without personalizing it, until it stops. And it will stop. It’s amazing what can happen when you don’t engage in an argument with yourself. Raise the white flag and surrender!
- See the drama play out until the end. If you hear “you suck” in your head or anything else when looking at someone else’s fairytale life, see it through to the end by asking questions. Why do I suck? What exactly makes me not worthy of a pink pony with a prince or princess galloping with me to our castle in the sky? Seriously….ask it questions, watch it lose its footing and hopefully disappear.
- Accept your fatal flaws, mistakes, failures, warts, defects, and what other ornaments you decorate your inner tree with. Just say YES to all that is f’d up within you. When you start owning it all, there’s nothing left to point out. And comparing yourself to others is boring because you know you’re human and so is everyone else. Even the Joneses.
- Be playful with life. See yourself through the eyes of the observer in a flirtatious way. Remember our true (as in fulfilling) accomplishments usually come as a result of being who we TRULY are, not who we think we’re SUPPOSED to be!
- Please remember no one is living a fairy tale existence. I know you’ve heard this a million times, but let it sink in emotionally. We all wake with morning breath and if we don’t keep our belly buttons clean, they can be the stinkiest part of our body. That goes for everyone!! See everyone through the eyes of reality instead of some hyped up fantasy (even if that’s the dish they’re feeding the rest of the world).
Where do you find yourself comparing yourself to others? Do you look at your neighbor in yoga class to make sure you’re ‘doing it right’? Maybe it’s the magazines you peruse at the check-out line, or perhaps Facebook is your ‘I’m not good enough’ platform of choice. In the comments below, please share where your comparison monster shows up!