“Comparison is an act of violence against the self” -Iyanla Vanzant
I love Iyanla Vanzant…possibly more than Oprah (yes, I just said that). Ironically Oprah is how I discovered Iyanla, but I just spent the last few minutes reading some of her quotes and my mind is already completely blown. I’ve been thinking a lot about this particular quote over the past week though.
We live in a culture of comparison now. With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest…with just a click of a mouse we have access to the personal lives and goings-on of hundreds of people all at once. We can see what fabulous trip they just went on. See their wedding photos. Hear about the second baby they have on the way. Hear about their fabulous trips and all the places they get to go. We’re automatically set up for comparing ourselves to one another. The only way to fully tune that out would be to get rid of all social media and probably not watch any television at all and let’s be honest, most of us just don’t want to do that…myself included.
I think one of the toughest mental obstacles I’ve had in my life is comparing myself to others. The majority of it has been physical comparison (there’s that limp again). Never feeling pretty enough or like I blended in enough. Even on days where maybe I finally felt like I was pretty, I’d go out to the mall or the beach and there would be 10 girls I perceived as prettier than me and I wouldn’t feel quite so good about myself anymore. When I had a guy I was dating or was interested in me, there would be other girls around who would be juggling two or three. Girls that were getting asked out all the time and jumping from relationship to relationship and I wasn’t.
Even today, I don’t always feel like my life is where it “should” be for a lot of different reasons. I look at where other people are and can’t help but ask “what did I do wrong that my life isn’t at that place too?” Did I make too many bad decisions along the way or not take enough risks and this is where I landed?
This is exactly what Iyanla means. I have literally spent years of my life beating myself up…mentally and emotionally…by comparing myself to others. I’ve devalued everything about myself and my life just because it didn’t match up with someone else’s. I’ve discounted my outer and inner beauty because I don’t look like a random stranger I saw walk past me once or that airbrushed model in the latest issue of Elle.
I’ve felt a lot of pain at the hands of others but I can tell you from experience, there is no greater pain inflicted than that which we inflict upon ourselves. This is not an easy pattern to break, for any of us. Even without social media this would be hard, but now we have a whole added layer we have to mentally overcome in order to feel right with ourselves and not compare our story to someone else’s. I’ve come along way on the path against comparison but it’s not easy. I still have plenty of days where I feel less than. Plenty of days where I feel like I’m not up-to-speed in life for my age. But the first step is being able to recognize that you’re comparing and be able to recognize the immense toll that can take on you so you can go forward and try to correct it.
Let’s not make ourselves each other’s enemies by comparing what we have or don’t have. We are all in this together. We all have things we wish were better in our own lives. We all have things maybe we wish we could change about how we look…insecurities. The most powerful thing we can know though is that in that, we are the same. We may be different people. We may all be individuals and that’s fantastic. But when you start to focus inward on yourself and what you have to bring the table, what great qualities you have to offer this world…suddenly what everyone else is doing doesn’t quite matter so much. When you relate instead of juxtaposing yourself against the person across from you, that’s when you can stop the violence.