December 19, 2017 Carole Levy

Toxic comparison paradigm

Comparison is an energy-sapper, a toxic mechanism of our mind that is difficult to work with, because we often fail to admit it to ourselves.

In a society that values authenticity, self-confidence and humility, it is childishly arrogant to admit that we are “more than” others, and unbearably weak to admit that we are “less than”. However, who hasn’t felt one way or the other?

We usually experience comparison with a sense of embarrassment and loneliness.

When we occasionally admit that we compare ourselves to others -when our mental misery overwhelms us- we actually don’t know what to do about it.

Comparison directly emerges from our ego-mechanisms which like to attach our self-worth to all sort of measurables: money, titles, power, status, body image, muscles, credentials, virtues- concrete elements that make it easy to compare.

If we experience being superior to others, we might feel a sense of relief, but it doesn’t last long. In the paradigm of comparison, we are usually tense, on guard, looking around for those who are smarter, younger, richer, luckier, wiser, cooler, healthier, nicer, tougher, who could disrupt our conditional sense of self-worth.

(As a child, I tried to create my niche above comparison in making choices that would be “special and unique”. I hoped to escape comparison, since I believed that I would never be good enough to win in this paradigm.

 Thankfully, reality knocked at my door and forced me to reinsert myself into the human race. It’s been a long learning journey to see life as something other than a race!)

When change happens in our life -promotion, demotion, loss, gain- or when something stays immutably stuck, that is our chance to face the wall of comparison and overcome it.

What is it about our essence, that makes the paradigm of comparison irrelevant?  And if we can’t answer this difficult existential question, how can we make the paradigm of comparison irrelevant anyway?

Two avenues of reflection:

  1. instead of numbing and avoiding reality, we need to lean into our vulnerability and discomfort, and admit when we compare ourselves to others. Be gentle, curious and accepting.
  2. Then, we need to refocus our mind on what we essentially want, which might seem unattainable, even unrealistic.

I’m not sure why, but holding the paradox of being in reality while persistently wanting something that seems at first unrealistic, is fertile ground. From this place, we can fulfill our life-gifts, and unabashedly flourish as a tulip, a rose… or a beautiful weed.

Happy Holiday Season!!

Reflective question: Do you experience comparison in your life? How does it impact you? Is there a constructive way to compare ourselves to others?


Comments (4)

  1. Anne

    Ce texte sur la comparaison tombe à pic dans ma vie
    Je ne suis pas sûr d’être vraiment en mesure encore aujourd’hui d’en faire un point d’apprentissage constructif pour moi!!!

    • Carole Levy

      Bonjour Anne! Oui, c’est vraiment un mécanisme difficile… Merci de le partager! Peut-être c’est la solution: pour s’en débarrasser, il faut le partager!

  2. Susan Isa Efros

    A provocative wake up call. We can’t be reminded enough of the toxic nature of comparison. Thanks for a pointer in the right direction!

  3. Ross Peterson-Veatch

    “holding the paradox of being in reality while persistently wanting something that seems at first unrealistic, is fertile ground”

    That resonates a lot, Carole. I feel like I learn most in that kind of environment and do best if I can stay there without seeking closure. For now that means I have to look beyond myself and put my ego in “time out” intentionally, like leave it sitting in the corner in a time-out chair (ha ha!). If I don’t do that the fertile environment usually collapses on me.

    Thanks for this great post! What a wonderful lens for reflecting on the year. Happy Holidays!

Comments are closed.


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