The mirror of comparison

Comparison is the thief of joy.
Teddy Roosevelt

Comparison is the death of joy. 
Mark Twain

Comparison is such a necessary tool. It is essential when you’re shopping, when you’re thinking about restaurants, when you are about to swipe right.  It is a wonderful tool to make choices. Comparison sucks joy out of moments when you compare sunsets, or birthday gifts, or even personal victories. And joy and love are destroyed when you compare your kids to others. But comparison becomes most dangerous when you apply it to oneself. A calculation of your relative worth, looks, intelligence, and contentment with your life. Wanting to be someone else, to be anyone but yourself, is when comparison takes its toll on the trajectory of your inner, true, authentic being. And once we literally, physically, emotionally and spiritually try to become somebody else, we lose our precious essence and our way.

When I was 7 years old, I remember like it was yesterday, I wanted Steven Hill’s hair. He had a look I coveted. He was my best friend and his hair mesmerized me. How does this memory hold up after 60 years?!

My mother cut our hair through high school. It was to save money. Needless to say, my coif was neither stylish or trend setting. Steven was white and had a neat crew cut with a wavy front. It was a hairdo I wanted and would never have.

Somehow in second grade my comp-hair-ison was undermining my self-confidence.

My assimilated mind was well in formation, and I was already hoping to be something/someone I would never be. White looked right.

I remember when my well-intended father would tell me about kids from other families that were doing ‘better’ than me, higher salaries and more prestigious titles. Some kind of weird, bizarre reverse psychology  motivational talk that never worked. Be like other people, not yourself.

Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent. Carl Jung

Yeah parents, culture, peers, and the media all feed this “you are inadequate”mentality. The American Dream. White Supremacy. The hyper competitive “dog eat dog” world (that doesn’t even make sense or exist😊) All conspire to define the Grand Canyon between who you are and what you SHOULD/could be. The mirror of comparison starts early and never stops.

A friend of mine told me a story about her cousin who was in a boarding school and in their preteen years there was a grave concern about anorexia and bulimia. So, the school, panicked and decided to take down all the mirrors. No mirrors in the bathrooms and in the bedrooms. No mirrors in anyone’s possession. They removed the mirrors so that no one could obsess about their weight and looks. Obviously, a misguided plan. Mostly because the sufferers of anorexia never see themselves, they always see themselves as over-weight even if they are emaciated. The image of comparison, looking good or being over-weight is in the mind not in the mirror. One of the weird unintended consequences was the non-white girls forgot they were non-white. Not seeing themselves and being with predominantly white classmates, they became white. We all become the crowd when we can’t see ourselves or forget who we are.

We look at ourselves every day in the mirror. Not really seeing ourselves. We either accept or don’t accept the way we look. We spend enormous energy, time and even money on hiding/changing things about our looks. Where does that come from? Generating so much horrific self-loathing and self-hating.

Status, prestige, success and happiness tied to the media campaigns and tv shows. The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in the 80s. Cribs of the 90’s. All the way to our Kardashian present.

Can’t fully even comprehend what is happening with social media, cyber bullying that just adds napalm to the process.

We are fed and digest how inadequate our lives are. How much of luxury is out of reach because of our choices and chances.

Yes status and materialism are the energizer batteries of our comparison conflagration. We are easy and early marks for the you are not good enough Olympics.  We compare our weight, muscles, skin tone, the car we drive, the shoes, our savings account, our careers, our kids’, and even our pets. One of the most amusing points of comparison is the size of the diamond on wedding rings. My experience is the size of the diamond is inversely related to love and longevity. Who made up the formula for months of salary and number of carats?

Through my formative years I watched “successful” people” and I started to gravitate towards these expectations, these external attributes that I wanted to manifest my achievement, my warped sense of belonging. I was obsessed to be seen as a member of this rising group of executives. I remember how important a type of watch was for my wrist. How powerful and important that watch made me feel seems silly now talking about it. That watch just sits in the drawer now.

I’ve been with people who are billionaires who have everything. I’ve been with people who are still incarcerated who have lost everything.  I find in each of these worlds there is this craving for status—to have a comparative advantage. I call them the rings of commonality. There is a menu of things that everyone in that milieu values to express their comparative status. At each flight up the stairs of success higher and higher. You have an increasing number of dollars to manifest your worthiness and belonging. And you move into a new ring of commonality that can be devoid of joy.

Nothing really wrong with striving. Striving to be a better human. To sharpen your skillset. To become better at your work and your life.

We must stop and realize what we have and what we have not utilized or even developed.

It is one thing to find exemplars, role models for your life and your career. Inspiration and mentoring on the way you want to conduct yourself and your life. People who serve as lighthouses for direction, moral compasses, ethical standards and the possibilities.

Not talking about settling or even some gratitude for mediocrity. But we are not grateful for our relative privilege, opportunity, and freedom.

John, my potential is so overrated. Really?

Your potential to love others and even yourself?

Your potential to help others?

Your capacity to find and explore what gives your soul pleasure, joy and fulfillment?

And in the end, this is about who you are and understanding what you want.

You want bragging rights at the next reunion. Show some doubters they were wrong. C’mon get out of high school and grow up!

Use the skill of deliberate comparison to spark your gratitude levels and animate your quest to nurture your essence.

I realized my hair was not the source of my superpowers. That my watch just needed to tell time. That being Asian-American was beautiful. That my parents meant well, but I had to define my own success. That my kids need the opportunity to do the same.

Let’s be grateful for what we have and can be. Let’s find the joy from investing in the incomparable gifts each of us has to offer.

Compare the brains of women and men and learn about the “nothing box”.

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