Comparison in our Daily Lives
"Comparison is the thief of joy."
This quote has been popping into my mind over and over through the last few months. I have been looking at how comparison comes into my life. I've found that it has become an incessant companion to my thoughts when left unchecked. And when it does, this is what I notice: I either feel a decrease in joy, or an increase in ego. Neither of these is a goal of mine.
When scrolling through social media, I often come across the pictures and posts of other moms, yoga teachers, women. I know so many women who are making a difference in our community and who are living such amazing lives and showing wonderful examples of how to thrive. I am happy for them. But then the thought creeps in. Should I be more active on social media, like her? Why isn't my life so picture perfect? Why can't I go to the lake for Labor Day weekend? We women can perpetuate sexism without even knowing it, by holding ourselves and other women to expectations of beauty and ambition that hurt us all.
For example, when you meet a new woman, what is your first thought? I have to admit, even though I have been trying for years to rid myself of this habit (especially after reading this article by Ashley Judd), I notice her physical appearance. I find beauty in every person I meet. Even if I am admiring her beauty, a tiny piece of me is comparing it to my own.
On social media I see comparisons on diets, political views, religion, and just about anything you can think of. Then, people are allowed to comment, often disagreeing with or degrading the writer of the post. One of the most common phrases that I see on social media (and I have also used it) is "the best husband/kids/friend." Although it is lovely to give a shout out to someone who is really special to us, why do we feel the need to use the word "best", implying that all else are lesser? I don't think that this is the intent, but it shows how deeply ingrained the concept of comparison is in our lives.
In yogic philosophy, there is a concept called Ahimsa. It is one of the 5 Yamas, (Moral Restraints). It means "do no harm." Every time we compare one thing to another, we are harming both parties.
First, we are harming the party who is set forth as the lesser. Second, we are setting the "winner" up to have to apologize for her successes, so as not to seem arrogant, and to "keep it up" to avoid falling from that high place.
Have you ever compared your children to each other, or to other children? Probably not, because we know that our kids are unique, not to be sized up to others. But if so, it probably did not serve either party. Our ideas, our art, our music, our beliefs can be considered our "offspring". We arrive at our conclusions based on a multitude of experiences which are unique to each of us, individually. How could we possibly expect our ideas to align with any other human being completely? To compare them to those of others is as ridiculous as comparing apples to oranges.
In my parenting life, I am trying to resist asking my kids what their "favorite" thing is. It's amazing how often we do this to kids. Can't they enjoy different aspects of their lives and not enjoy others, without grading them all?
One of the beautiful things about the human race is that we are all so wonderfully different.
I wonder if we could eradicate certain words from our vocabulary, such as "best," "top," "less," and "most."
Following are a few questions we can ask ourselves:
What does Comparison offer us?
Where does it bring us as a community?
Does comparison unite or divide us?
What if we transformed comparison into guidance and support?
What if we trusted that there was enough recognition for us all?
Our society needs now, perhaps more that ever, to unite, accept, and collaborate, and not to divide. A first step may be to notice the habit of comparison in our lives, and it's effect.
I hope that this is the first of many blog posts. I also hope that the future ones will be wonderful. Not more or less.