Maybe the tendency for humans to compare what they have, or what they want, with others is as old as human behavior itself. We all seem to do the comparison thing and we don’t have to go very far to be exposed to it. Facebook, Instagram, the media. Our neighbors, our family, our friends. Maybe the phenomenon of comparing ourselves to others is rooted in a healthy sense of competition. But is it? How do we feel when we look around at others and all we see is lack and where, and how, we seem to fall short?
What we don’t see
Ever heard the saying that goes “no matter what, you always have it better and worse than someone else”? Yeah, it doesn’t seem to matter to you when you look at Facebook and see that happy family, their incredible house, their amazing vacation. The powerful allure of the finished product. The illusion of perfection. But what are we missing? What can we possibly be missing when we look at those around us to who seem to have the things that we want? Actually, we are missing almost everything. We don’t see someone else’s pain, their anxiety, depression, past losses. In many cases we turn away from the reality of sacrifice that people make to get those things we covet. In business and career cases, we don’t see, and maybe we don’t want to, the hours away from home and family that person has given away to climb the ladder at their jobs. We don’t see the years of struggle of the entrepreneur. The hundreds of rejections and failed attempts they go through to get to where they are. When we see other people around us we don’t see the pain they have, or might have been through. We only choose to see the images in front of us or the illusion of arrival and perfection that we want to see.
The cost of comparison
When I first started my venture of owning my own business it was easy to see what I wanted to have. The autonomy of making my own hours. The possibility of increased income. The dream of being my own boss. The ability to make my own future. It sounded awesome. But it wasn’t long before I would get lost in the habit of comparing my new business venture with those people that I assumed had “arrived” and had what I desired. And when I didn’t get those things I wanted as quickly as I wished, feelings of inadequacy and doubt would creep in. And oh, did they creep in. And that’s the problem in the comparison game. You’re always in lack. And the fact you don’t have what you want becomes seemingly indicative of what’s wrong with you. Doubts, rumination, negative self talk. All are close friends of comparison. I wasn’t actually happy. How could I be when all I could see is what I didn’t have?
What’s really important to you?
Yeah, yeah. You get it. There’s more to life than the money, car, and job, right? Money’s not the most important thing in our lives. Yet, we make most of our decisions based on it. I’d even say that we base most of our decisions based on how to get something we lack. Whether it’s money, achievement, status, or even love. Living in lack. Always chasing something that’s seemingly going to give us the better life. I talk to clients all the time who are lost in trying to figure out why they can’t be happy. They seemingly have it all. I even heard a story from a coach I worked with last year. She told me a story that blew me away. This client she was working with was a multi-billionaire. The problem he had was that he was distraught. Angry. Depressed. Why? Apparently, he had recently sold one of his 12 oil tankers out of necessity. This was enough to crush him. See, nothing will ever be enough until we decide it is. Health? Family? Money? Security? What’s really important to you and do you actually have what you need right now? Not what you want but what you need. When is enough, enough? When does being satisfied and content come into your life? Are we waiting for someone to tell us when we can finally be grateful for what we have?
Here’s a video from Kosta Stoyanoff and his thoughts about having “enough”. He was a guest on podcast recently and we discussed how we can stop living an illusion.
The way out
Life gives up opportunities to wake up and see what we have. Sadly, we tend to wait for tragedy to hit before we actually slow down and feel in our hearts what we value. The loss of someone we love, a near miss to our health, the collapse of the stock market, the end of a relationship or marriage. When these things happen we have no choice but to face the reality of our situation. We feel into our pain and we receive a clarity that only sudden loss can give us. But why can’t we live through that gratitude and appreciation now? Why do we have to wait for life to hand us a bag of shit to truly see what blessings we ALREADY have? The fact is that many people DO have more than we do. But there are people that would kill to have what we have, as well. Life has a funny way of allowing us to see through the veil of illusion and into ourselves. What are we chasing? Why do we feel the need to constantly judge ourselves from a state of lack? If we took the time to see behind the veil propped up my social media, media, and government would we really like what we see? That nobody has it “made”. Nobody has arrived and nobody has the answers.
What do we want to choose?
What if we chose to live more intentionally focusing on what we value and what brings us life and happiness? Living in the moment. Being present with those that we love. Doing the things we love that set us on fire. Not waiting for the next big thing to give us a sense of arrival. Not wasting our time comparing our lives to other people we’ll never, ever be.
We have a choice. Stay asleep living our lives chasing imaginary ghosts of illusion with millions of others wandering around lost. Or we can wake up to the realization that we might have everything we need. Right here in front of us and inside of us. And we can make that choice right now.
“We’re all here to walk each other home”. -Ram Dass