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How To Beat 'Compare And Despair' In The Digital Age

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How To Beat 'Compare And Despair' In The Digital Age

Overcome envy and kick your ego into touch with these tips from #HigherSelfie
Lucy Sheridan and Jo Westwood
Lucy Sheridan and Jo Westwood More by this author
Apr 01, 2016 at 04:45 AM

It can be scary work to announce the dark corners of our ego to the world and, a bit like perfectionism, comparison is a sophisticated form of self-sabotage in our ego’s playbook. We do it to ourselves and this truth is as infuriating as it can be liberating.

 

To level with you, this other ‘C word’ has the potential to be a great source of inspiration. In some cases, by observing and digesting what is happening to those around us, comparison acts like a mirror of the Universe, reflecting back what is possible in this ever-abundant world – whether that’s investing in the new power handbag (yes, that’s a thing!), dream holiday (where is my passport?) or simply experiencing the basically beautiful stuff of life that is on offer, in abundance, for free (hello the sound of birdsong or a sexy smile from your crush!).

Some people observe others and scroll past, quickly pivoting to a positive thought of ‘If they have it then why not me?’ and off they skip across their proverbial meadow.

And then there are some people who simply don’t pay any attention to what others are being, doing, wearing, achieving or eating, and it has no influence at all on how they feel about their past, present and future so ‘compare and despair’ is an alien concept.

(To be honest, we don’t meet a lot of these people, and the ones we do meet tend to be our Nans’ mates, whose main point of reference for a life lived online is telling you they saw your cousin’s new baby pictures on Facewatch or Lookbook! LOL! We heart Nans!)

But then there are the rest of us, who, if we are really honest, have a better-than-necessary knowledge of where we think we stack up in different areas of life compared to our peers, buddies and colleagues. And rather than using it as a magnetic mirror to call in what we desire, comparison is a corrosive energy that feeds on our sense of worth and can infect our relationships, as well as our ability to follow our soul’s calling.

Yes, this ego trick really is that powerful, which is exactly why we need to take off our spiritual, rose-quartz-tinted Ray Bans and stare it down. Comparison, we are coming for you!

The origin of comparison

It can feel almost impossible not to compare ourselves to each other because it’s something that’s been present since the day we became open to suggestion – literally the day we were born.

We get compared to the other babies on the hospital ward when we enter the world and from there, unbeknownst to us, as we grow to walk and talk, we’re being sized up, tested, measured, weighed (often literally!) and analysed in relation to our age group.

So a comparison mind-set establishes itself from those toddler- tantrum days, laying its traps everywhere.

You might, like us be able to recall growing up, comparing yourself to other people’s exam results, sports achievements, boob size, body shape and boyfriends and later, as you became a ‘grown-up’ with comparison markers expanding to job status, car brand, mortgage, living arrangements, sex lives, handbag label, marital status, Instagram followers, juicing habits, Facebook likes, websites and whatever else your ego could muster to add to the list. That sample in itself is already a whole lot to go at and the potential for self-punch-bagging is huge!

Yet voicing vulnerability and our feelings of uncertainty and inferiority brought about by comparison can be met with a blast of ‘get over it’ – whether that’s because they can’t relate or because they can relate all too well and your expression of discomfort pushes some buttons for them that they’d rather have left alone, thank you.

For example, our parents or less digitally inclined peers simply have not experienced comparison to the extent that we do as they’ve never had to process ‘Keeping up with The Jones’ on steroids as we have now thanks to social media.

Which brings us to a clear realization...

If there’s one thing we can all gorge on to keep small and stay shrunk, it’s comparison.

One of the ego’s chief weapons to keep us in the darkness and shackled to our shadow is to get us to compare ourselves consistently on all fronts. In this state it succeeds in keeping us separate from the universal truth that we are all one, connected and united as a collective consciousness and source of light.

In a world that is brimming over at every turn with potential fodder for our ego’s ‘scavenger dog’, being on watch for comparison is a requirement, not a ‘nice to have’, if we lightworkers are to avoid its harmful and corrosive effects.

But becoming comparison-free is no easy task at first and nobody gets to skip the work. Not only is comparison an ingrained habit we have practised over time but also, for we digital natives living our lives online, there is barely any respite from the opportunity to size ourselves up against other people.

The power couple of technology and social media means it has never been easier to benchmark yourself against the people you may know well, or by association, and keep tabs on them in a way that just a few years ago might have got you an injunction.

Stalker much?!

As a generation we’re participating in ‘sharing and liking’ or what is essentially mass covert tracking of our friends and acquaintances.

And if your feed is anything like ours, on a minute-by-minute basis, you’ll see a celebrity’s lunch, your BFF’s baby, your ex’s holiday tan and a workmate’s promotion scroll past in just one ‘hit’ of Facebook or Instagram.

It’s all up for grabs when it comes to judging others via our own, individual made-up metrics and benchmarks and they’re constantly being updated and reviewed on our ego’s ‘us against them’ virtual scorecards.

We each have our own ‘go to’ list of people and things that, through comparison, we bash ourselves with, and overlook our chance in the present moment to grow, shift and thrive. Do any of these hypothetical thoughts sound familiar when it comes to what we observe in other people’s lives?

‘Look at the size of that engagement rock!’ – Hmmm that must mean I really am the only single person in my network... Or perhaps on Earth?!

‘How did he get that weight off?’ – Aha! As I suspected I am a lazy who that will never amount to anything!

‘S***, look at the amazing press coverage her business received!’ – Got it! All of my ideas are crap and I can never compete with the likes of her sparkly self when I’m just lil’ old me!

‘How can her house and children be so clean and perfect’  – Jeeez, why did I ever think I could handle raising a human?!

When you’re not feeling connected and your cup isn’t filled, your ego will always have a put-down ready for you. Cue anxiety, insecurity and feelings of neediness and vulnerability that, faster than you can squeak a dramatic ‘Nooooooooooooo!’, will suck you into a downward spiral of feeling less than – like you’re the only person that doesn’t have this thing called life figured out and that you’ll never be able to make the transformation you truly desire.

This is because comparison – whether stimulated by social media or not – can lead us to believe that to be successful or accepted we have to perform and conform. And that perceived performance can, in an aggressively oversimplified way, boil down to some key social media ‘status updates’ that are worryingly linked to acquiring stuff and seeking fulfilment outside of ourselves.

For many, these comparison boxes include ticking off jobs, cars, marriage, kids, fancy holidays (or pretty standard holidays made to look fancy), mortgage and the odd shopping splurge – but not before gap years and bikini selfies and wild nights out – repeat to fade.

It’s important to state clearly that there is zero judgement from us towards any of those events or milestones. After all, who doesn’t love going on a trip overseas or bagging those much coveted Chanel espadrilles? And, for the record, we both have quite a few of those boxes ticked between us but not, we hope you’ve realized by now, for the superficial satisfaction of ticking the boxes.

We want to shine a light on one of the fallouts of comparison, namely, the perception that it is necessary to tick pre-agreed boxes to ‘amount to anything’ in your life. Society, including our friends, parents, social media feeds, and the brands we buy can make us feel that if we’re not racking up that checklist by the time we’re thirty then God help us! Order the kitty litter, old lady, ’cause there’s only one place you’re headed!

But this is what we like to refer to as ‘total bull****’.

What works for some will not work for you. The timing of one person’s relationship start or end will have no influence at all on your own. Someone going travelling for a year does not mean you should do the same when you kind of want to buy a house and start nesting.

Whatever your life stage, whether you’re starting out in your adult years or deep into retirement and reflection, none of these choices make you more boring or interesting. When made authentically, these choices just make you, you!

If you’re following a crowd without checking in with your internal compass then your life is in danger of becoming someone else’s tribute act. You know, like those bands that play famous songs in dingy bars, not as well, not as loud and not in the same key as the original? The ones that have names like ‘Mouldplay’ and ‘Noasis’. Yeah. #lifegoals

If you squint your eyes and muffle your ears it may sound like the real thing but you know it’s not authentic or the true article. It’s a performance – a copy that takes practice, changing, squeezing and diluting your true self. When you compare yourself to others and follow what they’re doing because you never take the time to figure out what will make you happy, this is exactly what you’re doing – putting on a tribute act. It’s uncomfortable, exhausting and unnecessary.

You are already a unique act by virtue of the fact you were born.

Compare = despair

Comparison massively affects our beliefs about ourselves, which in turn brings our energetic frequency down. This is the equivalent of locking your potential in a box and hiding it under the bed where it’s dark, just left to wane and waste.

What further reinforces comparison’s low energy frequency and cuts off any creative energy we can muster to change our perception or circumstances, is the widely held belief that success is a zero sum game – a special bonus gift from your ego to keep things really dark.

We can start to label a win or success for someone else as a loss or failure on our part. This in turn can encourage a competitive or combative vibe towards each other and you may find yourself compiling a panel of likely suspects that you can use to gorge on for your comparison fix.

We all have a version of that girl, guy or group who turn up as a recognized archetype and target for our comparison.

He or she will have appeared in different guises through your school years, work life and social circles, and as you read this you can probably picture him, her or them right now.

Perhaps it’s someone who seems to have it easy, who’s lucky, well liked, successful, academic, in love, who ended up with your ex, or seems to find healthy eating a breeze – that someone who, ultimately, we feel is not like us and will always be a stranger, rival or silent conspirator against our own success.

The reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

Don’t drink the Koolaid! Kick that ego to the curb

Comparison disconnects us from our source because the light that we share is available to us always. Comparison takes us out of the present moment and prevents us from looking at all the ways we can be creative and make space for the miracles we truly desire.

We are each deeply and equally connected, worthy and light-filled, with untold potential regardless of the perceived lucky breaks or upsets that we experience in this lifetime. We can come back from anything and choose again. We can shine even brighter than our last ‘high point’. This has nothing to do with anyone else and everything to do with our relationship with ourselves and our intention to be authentic.

We must learn to question the ingrained assumptions that our own world view is the status quo and build our immunity to the ego’s trick of comparison.

From compare and despair to #comparisonfree

Whoever is the subject of your obsession or comparison curiosity, in turn, will also have their own panel of people that they voyeuristically keep tabs on, dedicate the odd bitchy comment to (even if it’s just in their head) or start a loaded conversation around.

And this applies to you too!

Whether you believe it or not, you too are someone else’s benchmark. At your current weight, job, relationship status, haircut, and snazzy new shoe purchase – you are the subject of someone else’s ‘comparisonitis’.

 

Maybe you already know it or maybe it seems crazy to you, but it’s true. We are all in this together – hungry for connection, togetherness and alignment and now more than ever we each need to heal so the next person can take strength from our own example.

This is your clarion call to accept responsibility and strive to live comparison-free, even with the lure of social media tempting you to do just the opposite.

Notice what you notice

It’s something that so many of us experience and can relate to yet comparison is still treated as a bit of a taboo subject. Unfortunately this only serves to keep us in the comparison trap and means you never get to the insight it holds, that is so unique to you, and the life you really, authentically want.

If you’re comparing yourself to other people, ego wants you to stay in that icky discomfort but at the same time your intuitive voice is inviting you to answer honestly for yourself: ‘So what?’ – that is, ‘What’s this trying to reveal to me?’

If you feel like your friend seems to live in the first-class lounge of the airport, instead of dwelling on the perceived ‘unfairness’ of the situation, take a step back and ask yourself ‘So what?’... The answer will come through with some killer, impactful insight that you can use to create a miraculous life in the present.

Your ‘so what?’ in this comparison scenario might be ‘I’m so tired, I can’t remember the last time I had a break and got pampered. That needs to change.’

Notice how that specific insight starts with you and has nothing to do with your friend’s air miles!

Everyone has to start somewhere

In the mind, body, soul industry there’s the potential for idol worship just as there is in the fashion, pop, technology or business sectors – not helped by a focus and reverence for high social media followings that create an impression of influence and superiority. (Oh hi, ego headlock!)

These pedestals we build in our minds and the media separate us from the teachers and their teachings. Comparing ourselves to other people’s progress means we flip the ‘off’ switch on the shared light and potential we have the capability to harness, no matter where we are on our journey.

There is room for all to thrive but to do so you must use your gifts to meet your miracles halfway. Nobody is immune to admiring, celebrating and appreciating the work of others as they too rise up – even one of our spiritual crushes Kyle Gray has ‘spirit junkie’, the phrase made famous by Gabby Bernstein, tattooed on his feet.

Forgive yourself

The first impulse when you realize the potential opportunities, time and energy that have been wasted on comparison is to feel regret, frustration and shame at having not chosen a more loving, intuitive approach to life and yourself. For not having had a more consciously self-loving mind-set or not having asked for a miracle.

But, one of the beautiful teachings of Marianne Williamson’s Being in Light is ‘Anything that is your genuine experience is your passage of initiation.’

In other words nothing you have said, done or thought to this point has been a mistake. It has actually been part of your training – you just passed your audition! Now you are smart to the ego’s tricks you can choose again – in every instance of comparison is an opportunity for you to choose love and accept yourself.

The Universe is set up for you to win in your own way. You are forgiven (and for the record, you never did anything wrong).

 

It’s OK to be a hipster

Being authentic and creating your own miraculous life, whatever that means for you, is actually pretty nonconformist and outside the cultural mainstream of this modern age.

It requires a deliberate and conscious display of your choices whether subtle or overt – it’s actually a bit hipster to live authentically. But fear not – expensive coffee, vintage bikes, living in Williamsburg or Shoreditch, and waxed moustaches are all entirely optional. It’s the attitude and intention that counts!

It means questioning your assumptions as well as the assumptions of others out loud or just in your own meditation.

You’re not meant to be everyone’s cup of tea. You’re not designed to blend in, dumb down or dress up to emulate what wider society thinks is acceptable. That will only shackle your soul to an exhausting lie.

Clear up the energy

We’ve referenced the influence of social media a lot because (in case you hadn’t noticed) it’s a digital world we live in! Its influences on us are varied and complex, to such a point that it might at first appear that we are powerless to this insidious source of comparison content, but with a little practice we can proactively create a positive relationship with all of those apps!

A digital detox is largely impractical in this day and age so consciously managing your social media feeds rather than blocking them altogether is a powerful practice.

Treat your social media feed like a house party. Don’t invite people, stories, brands or news into your life that don’t contribute to a feeling of wellbeing and positivity.

Unfollow, put on hold and mute the unwelcome guests that trigger your comparisons (you know who we’re talking about!) and actively invite in and interact with the people, brands and conversations that make you feel entertained, inspired and lit up.

Editor's Note: Read more of Lucy and Jo's first book with Hay House, #HigherSelfie: Wake Up Your Life. Free Your Soul. Find Your Tribe​ in the extract below:

#HigherSelfie - Lucy Sheridan and Jo Westwood

About Author
Lucy Sheridan and Jo Westwood
Lucy Sheridan, AKA the UK's first Comparison Coach, helps Gen Y get over the 'compare & despair' of social media and be truly happy off- and online. Her work has been featured in Grazia and The Daily Mail.  Continue reading