How to Avoid the Comparison Game

Look inside yourself right now, are you happy? If you were scrolling through any kind of social media before you answered this question, the answer is likely to be a ‘no’. Anytime we allow ourselves to get sucked in to the quicksand of these social platforms, there’s a little part of ourselves (or maybe a lot) that walks away feeling unsatisfied. We can’t help it. As human beings we are evolutionary inclined to be social animals, and a primary survival tactic when you are but one of the pack is to compare your own social standing against that of others. This is how we learn our social cues and the social norms.

Whether we like to admit it or not, a lot the choices we make are not our own, but rather are socially motivated from seeing the script of life taken from that of others. You get the hint that now is the right time to get married when one after another of your Facebook friends start posting their wedding albums online, instead of their drunken adventures to Cabo. The same goes for having children. And even if you were not so travel inclined, you can be sure that seeing everyone and their great-grandmother’s perfectly posed Instagram photos taken in exotic locales will make you think twice about checking out that airline’s advertised Spring Seat Sale!

What does this all mean though, really? If you were to live in a bubble, completely devoid of other human stories to draw upon and to live up to, what would you do? How would you live your life truly? It is hard to imagine this scenario because for nearly all of human existence we have not lived in isolation but always in a tribe, where the rules for daily living were transcribed to each new member since birth. But never have we had so many different outlets coming to us all at once, each proclaiming their own rules and regulations that we are supposed to learn and follow, in order to live a satisfactory and meaningful life.

How do we know if what we are doing is meaningful? By forming a comparison, of course. We know we are old by looking at how young everyone else is who is achieving what we want to. We think we are young when we hear of others accomplishing something at a much later stage in their life, an age we have not yet reached. Phew, I still have ten more years left before it’s too late for me. None of these scenarios hold any true meaning; what’s happening to someone else holds no sway over what will happen to you. Yet that doesn’t stop us from mentally beating ourselves up, or falsely congratulating ourselves on something we haven’t actually done.

It is too easy to fall into this trap. At the touch of a button (and most likely three or four) we invite the whole world into our consciousness, from our favourite celebrities to our old next door neighbour. Flipping through countless comparison after comparison, most of the time mindlessly, we subconsciously take it all in and fix it into our psyche. It leaves us with this constant sense of unease, a low-level buzz of unhappiness that fades into the background like the hum of a refrigerator, a thing you stop noticing because it’s so entrenched into the facade of the normal. How do you get out of it? How do you shed this second skin that is so ill-fitting, like wearing a heavy sweater in the middle of a red hot summer?

Learn to be present; actually it’s more likely you’re going to have to fight to be present, at least in the beginning. Our minds normally operate on only two frequencies. Tune in to your thoughts at any given moment – go ahead, give it a try now. You are thinking about either something that happened in the past, ruminating on your recent history or further along down your memories, or you are planning for the future. Which is it? It doesn’t matter – if it was one it will be sure to turn into the other in the next second and back again. This is the root of where comparisons begin. We look at our past and think, “Well what have I done with my life?” Or we look into the future and think, “Well how the hell am I going to accomplish that?”

The past and the future contain the same element to them, they are neither in our control. But our minds, like children forbidden to play with dangerous things, gravitates towards them anyways, playing up these mind games because it is the way the mind has always behaved. We spend our days entrenched in the dramas we ourselves make up, against the backdrop of “should have, could haves” or “it will happen like this, it must happen like this.” In this space we are unhappy, we make ourselves sick.

“Always say “yes” to the present moment. What could be more futile, more insane, than to create inner resistance to something that already is? What could be more insane than to oppose life itself, which is now and always now? Surrender to what is. Say “yes” to life – and see how life suddenly starts working for you rather than against you.”                                                                                                                                          – Eckhart Tolle 

The only antidote is to step out of what is making us ill in the first place. Step out of the illusion of time and into the realness. Observe your mind and focus it away from its old habit patterns and force it into the Now. Look around you, look at what is actually in front of you right now. Look at yourself, what are you doing, how are you feeling both emotionally and physically? Give minute attention to all the details pertaining to your present moment. What is actually going on? Are you outside? Do you smell the air? Can you feel your breath? When was the last time you took a conscious inhale and a conscious exhale? Do you know that you are alive?

Look around you, you have been here before. Not in this exact physical space, but in this moment of mental clarity. When you are here in the Now, everything is perfect. Nothing can be wrong in the present. If you catch yourself thinking, “Yeah well, my life’s situation is still not great, this thing and that thing are still unresolved…” stop that thought right now. That is not in the present, you are already lost to the mind’s slaving need for the future. Whatever is happening, it is not happening right now. Now is here, Now is perfect.

Before you think, “Okay, so maybe now is good, but I will still have to dive back into time and my problems will still exist,” recognize that Now is not just one moment. It is every moment you choose to be present; it can be every single moment. The stress and unhappiness you think you will feel belongs to the mind’s game of playing into the future. Fight that habit, you can turn it off. This present moment, and the peace that comes with it, is infinite. The present is a present, and it is a gift for you to keep. Even if you lose it, keep coming back to it, over and over it will be waiting for you. Peace of mind is possible, living without comparison is possible, you just need to keep coming back to the Now.    

“Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it. Make it your friend and ally, not your enemy. This will miraculously transform your whole life.”                                                                                                                                                                                                              – Eckhart Tolle                 

Author’s Note: I’m reading the Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, a great book for anyone interested in the spiritual journey to learning about and bettering themselves. It is too easy to be lost in the bustle of the day to day, but in doing so we lose the reality of why we are here and what we can accomplish. Trust me, it is more meaningful than closing a deal or getting a good performance review. Life is just full of so much more, and we so easily get lost in the delusion of it all. Get present; take a moment for yourself today. Not just today, but all days. Not just one moment, but every moment. Have a happy Wednesday my friends. Be back next week! Share, Like, pass it on to someone who needs a wake-up call. 

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