Tag Archives: Comparison

Self Care In A Pandemic (40): Be Inspired, But Don’t Compare…

In the UK, there are a couple of well known insurance companies with catchy ‘theme tunes’ (or ‘jingles’ if you use Americanised English) as part of their adverts.

One is called ‘Go Compare’ with a caricatured opera singer singing ‘Go Compare, Go Compare…!’ Some might find it a little annoying, but it certainly sticks in the mind, and as far as advertising is concerned, I suppose that’s the point – to be memorable, and to ‘stick’.

Another cute advert that you might be aware of is one with animated / toy Meerkats that deliver the lines. Their slogan lets us know that it’s not ‘Compare the Meerkat’ but ‘Compare the Market dot com’ in an Eastern European accent. Almost everyone over here will know these characters because they’ve become so memorable. I even know that the original Compare the Market meerkat is called Sergei! Another is Oleg, the baby meerkat. They offer discounts, cinema vouchers and added extras as part of their low cost insurance. Let me just say that I’m not sponsored by anyone, but it just proves my point that these things can be catchy and stick with us.

Our culture teaches us to compare:

So what does that have to do with anything, and with self care in the pandemic in particular? I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that our culture, particularly western culture or cultures that use a lot of advertising and / or social media encourage us to compare our lives with others or with a ‘dream like’ life.

We are prompted to compare our skin with the skin of airbrushed models so that we will buy that next beauty product that will make us more like the ‘ideal’. We are compelled to compare our bodies, our lifestyles, our health and fitness, our belongings with other people’s and to fill up that ‘lack’ in our lives by buying that next product or paying money to make our lives better in some way.

Sometimes we are prompted to compare our lives with those who are poor or suffering in some way so that we will realise just how much we have, how much they need, and give towards fulfilling the need of others through charitable acts. Such comparison can be good, when we are giving towards causes that are just and fair and above board and that actually do help other people. While comparison can be ‘the thief of joy’, it can also be a humbling force that causes us to be more grateful and to give to other people out of love, duty or kindness, and in that case it can help us to live more thankful and giving lives.

Aside from the world of advertising, social media also can be a source of comparison with our peers. This can prompt a variety of reactions within us if we are part of those worlds. I imagine that people who constantly scroll through social media may do so to keep in touch with others, but they may also find ways to celebrate their friends blessings and achievements. However, as the news stories often highlight, there is a darker side to this psychologically. I’ve read quotes that say that the pictures other people share of their lives are often the ‘highlight reels’ of what is going on with them. We may never know that, but what we do know is that studies show that constant comparison can have a detrimental effect on our mental health and wellbeing.

Is this something you need to think about in the pandemic when issues such as loneliness, poor health, illness and low self esteem may be more at the fore than usual? Do you need to take a step back?

Of course we don’t need to be part of the worlds of social media to experience the comparison trap. We might experience it through the updates of a friend through text, email, letter or face to face. Even though we are separated by the pandemic restrictions, we are in many ways more ‘connected’ than ever. We need to forge out mutually healthy and beneficial connections, but this is not always the case when people are part of worlds when they gain insight into the lives of people they are not necessarily close to.

It is good when we face comparison to take a step back and be grateful for what we have, for our own lives, and to seek to be inspired. Comparison isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s what we do with it that matters and how we process our thoughts, emotions and reactions.

There is a verse in the Bible that says: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those who mourn”. What a verse to hold to in 2020 and going forwards, with so many ups and downs and contrasts! Christianity prompts us to lift our eyes away from ourselves to Jesus Christ and to love and serve Him and other people.

If you are struggling with the comparison trap, know that you are human, everyone experiences it to some extent, and don’t beat yourself up for it. Perhaps you need to take a step back, work on a change of attitude, or think about whether something is ‘triggering you’.

I don’t experience much of this on Word Press blogging. Actually, until recently I have enjoyed the variety of things coming up in my news feed on the bloggosphere. Unfortunately, however, I felt the need to unfollow someone whose blog I enjoyed reading because of the contrast that wasn’t good for my mental health – something good is happening in their life and while I don’t personally know them, I am pleased for them from a distance. But at the same time, it feels like they are sharing a lot about this good thing and it is in a way a stumbling block for me, and so to protect my mental health I’ve had to consider not seeing those posts so much. I can choose to go to their blog and read it when I like, but I’ve also chosen not to have those posts randomly pop up in my feed when I’m not mentally ready to see them, because the contrasts are difficult for me. That’s ok. We all need to consider each other, but sometimes we’re not so good at doing that, so we learn as we grow.

I try to write posts that will encourage all of you, but please do let me know if there is anything that you find challenging or want me to consider in how I can better support you through my writing.

In the meantime, remember that your life is unique, beautiful, one of a kind and incomparable. As you live it, seek to uplift other people and don’t let your successes cause anyone else to stumble as far as you are able or it is in your power to do so.

Your life is precious. Live it well. Today. Be blessed. x

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LIFE AFTER LOCKDOWN – *Avoid the comparison trap*.

*Avoid the comparison trap*.

Remember ‘JOMO’? The phrase (the ‘Joy Of Missing Out’) coined to counter FOMO (‘Fear Of Missing Out’)?

Well, you might need to keep it handy so that you can bring it to mind in the days and weeks to come. While lockdown was somewhat of a leveller in that we all were made to stay indoors, it also brought to the fore some disparities between people’s experiences with a varying spectrum of health, wealth, work, care, family, social, ideological, and other issues. It’s been nice to see people finding a level of common ground despite varying experiences, and for communities to try to bridge the gaps to some extent. However, the differences in our experiences of life in lockdown may also have brought about divergences in friendships and relationships when for example people no longer have the same common ground that they once did socially to connect with each other. It’s worth reminding ourselves that everyone has been trying to make it through as best as they can through their own unique experiences, and remembering this will help us to manage our expectations and avoid disappointment. Lockdown may have strengthened and deepened some of our relationships and friendships, while others might have come under strain, broken down, stagnated or drifted away.

And here we all are gradually leaving that part of our experience behind. This is where the phrase ‘JOMO’ might come in handy, at least as a temporary measure to help you, and for you to help others, to navigate this transition. Why? Because people will be emerging from the past four months of lockdown with potentially very different stories to tell. Some may have flourished, others may have held on, and there are those who have broken down. You might have enjoyed more time with your family or more time to yourself, or you may be struggling financially, grieving, feeling neglected or lonely, facing job loss or uncertainty with the end of furlough, or be wrestling with mental health issues and broken relationships or exhaustion, or whatever your experience may be. You might have been able to use all of your mixed experiences as opportunities to grow or you may not have overcome the challenges quite yet. At times like this other people’s stories, media, social media, news, magazines and the internet in general, can potentially become a stumbling block or a difficult place to navigate, so just remember that you’re never seeing the full story of other people’s lives.

I personally find a wonderful perspective in this: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn”.

Try to remember that, as well as bringing to mind the joy of missing out, and deepen any other life lessons you’ve had the opportunity to learn in lockdown when you begin to see and hear of people’s experiences of life after lockdown.

If you’re doing great, well or getting through, then I rejoice with you, and am glad for you. If you are struggling and can barely make it through the day, try to prepare yourself to avoid the comparison trap when you begin to see, hear or read of some of the joyful post-lockdown stories in the days and weeks to come. It’s good that people are doing well, and even if you’re in tough spot you can choose to dig deep and learn and grow through it until your brighter days come along.

Don’t forget those simple day-to-day things that you found life in when you were focused on life at home. Try to avoid the temptation to compare, and if you are emerging from this and are doing well, then reach out to others who might not be. ‘JOMO’ – it sounds ridiculous, but it may just have some very useful lessons for us, as sometimes humility with gratitude is the road to ‘happiness’. 😀 

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When you feel insecure, and wonder whether you are enough…

Do you ever have those moments, perhaps when you are doing ok, and have been working hard at your life, but something makes you feel inadequate, not quite good enough?

I think these moments come to us all, and perhaps we don’t recognise that we internalise certain false beliefs about ourselves at such times, because they leave an emotional imprint.

Maybe you have been doing your best, but then you come face to face with someone else’s accomplishments, perhaps they are younger than you, more vibrant, making changes that are positively impacting the world around them…and you suddenly feel deflated, as if what you are doing is not good enough, and wonder why aren’t you doing or able to do those things. Or maybe you’ve been working through some struggles and doing your best to get by, and make the most of what you’ve got, to have a right attitude, and at last you feel like you might just be getting there, to a place of contentment if not quite satisfaction. You’re doing ok. And then you see that someone else’s life is overflowing with the blessings you can’t imagine ever happening for yourself, and you wonder whether you’re just not good enough, not worthy enough, or why things are so much harder for you.

Maybe you feel like, despite the evidence to the contrary, you’re not talented, everyone around you is better, and those feelings of insecurity tug at your heart and threaten to bring you down.

And all the while, someone is looking at you and your life and thinking, wow, he / she is amazing. Maybe they see you as the girl who is smart, and beautiful and has many friends, who seems to breeze through life, and face struggles with strength and defiance. Maybe they wish for your home, or your talents, or to be able to travel and go where you have gone, or to be a strong independent singleton, or to have that seemingly happy family that you know is actually not that much of a fairy-tale from the inside. Maybe they see you as the guy who is always cheerful, smart, likeable, funny, attractive, with not a care in the world. And all the while, inside your mind and heart, it couldn’t be more different.

Just know that these feelings are normal, and we all face them at some point or another through life, and to varying degrees. Things are never just quite what they seem. There are things about each other we can’t see. We can’t see someone’s past, we can’t see their losses, their mental health struggles, their chronic pain, their illness, their fears, their unfulfilled longings, their low-self esteem, their childhood traumas, their loneliness. There is so much about each other that we fail to see, perhaps behind smiles and accomplishments that indicate that everything is ‘great’ for that person.

But we all are human, and we all have our ups and downs. So if you feel insecure, know that often this may come from comparisons with others, including false comparisons and negative thinking. Do we really have the right to judge and compare and make value judgements on the basis of that? I don’t think we do. It can be hard sometimes to feel as though you are enough, to overcome the lies that tell you you’re not worthy as a person, and to allow the Truth in. When Light shines on any of our hearts, it exposes the darkness that is in us all, and only by surrendering to the Truth, that we need to be set free and healed and saved and helped can we begin to be our authentic selves, unafraid to step into the Light.

You are unique, there is no one else like you, with the exact same blueprint, DNA, and intricate design as you. Even ‘identical twins’ are not the same. There is no one quite like you, and that is what makes you special. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. And yes, you’re not like that other person you admire, but you weren’t meant to be. You might not have the easier path, but are there not lessons that you could not possibly have learned otherwise? Lessons that might just help someone else in an incredible or small way.  You don’t look like them because you aren’t meant to. You don’t have the same life as them, because you weren’t meant to. And they don’t have your life. So when you feel insecure, remember that you are remarkably unique, one of a kind, unlike any other, and take time to seek the Truth and the Light that will illuminate who you are and who you are meant to be – uniquely, incomparably you. x

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Where the grass is greener…

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Picture courtesy of Google Images.

The grass is greener where you water it. It may seem a bit glib to say so, but I believe it is certainly a healthy perspective to have.

I don’t know what your life situation is right now. Perhaps you feel that the grass is greenest right where you are – you may have been blessed with your heart’s desires in life, and if so, I am sincerely happy for you. Or you maybe distracted by looking over the fence at your neighbour’s beautiful lawn and rose studded garden, and lamenting the state of your own garden. You may have one eye on your lawn and one on theirs seeing positives and negatives in both of your situations. Perhaps the latter, despite possibly inducing a squint, is the most practical point of view. 🙂

However, why do we compare our lives with others? From a young age, it seems that society, peer groups, educational institutions, relations and the media to varying degrees indoctrinate us into the comparison trap.  We are bombarded with images of what our bodies ‘should’ look like, encouraged or pressured to excel and get the best grades, asked questions like ‘why can’t you be more like your cousin/friend/sibling/classmate so and so…they are so much more (fill in the blank)’. And the list goes on and on. It is hardly surprising that most of us go through periods of discontent with ourselves and our lot in life, feeling that somehow we’re just not good enough, or our lives don’t quite measure up.

A degree of comparison can sometimes be healthy especially if it makes us more grateful for what we have, and more desirous to help others who are less fortunate than ourselves. Yet, I don’t believe that this is the kind of ‘healthy comparison’ that most of us, however subconsciously, train our minds to make.

It’s been said that “Comparison is the thief of joy”, probably because most comparison stems from negative heart motives and results in feelings of jealousy, envy, pride, self-pity or resentment. The thief steals our joy and destroys our well being and relationships, or mars them at least.

We tend not to compare ourselves with those less fortunate than ourselves, and feel grateful for our own blessings in life, but instead compare ourselves and our lives with those who “have what we want” in life, have what we think will make us happy, and with a false sense of entitlement and perhaps a degree of prideful arrogance, have what we think we should have or be given.

Perhaps it is our responsibility to take the more mature path and keep our eyes fixed on our own lives and situations. That way we will be more likely to be a blessing to other people as well as taking better care of ourselves and our mental and emotional wellbeing.

I am called to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn”. To be happy when other people are blessed and to show compassion to those who are hurting.

However, I am not superhuman, and have to work on having a healthy outlook on life. If I think back to my dreams as a little child, when thinking about that question we are so often asked when we are young, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, I think my heart desires would have painted a picture of happiness, love and health. I wanted to be a writer and a painter or cartoonist, to be beautiful, to be happily married and have a happy family of my own, and to live and be close to the family I was born into. I would want best friends and a puppy and a log cabin in the woods, to be immersed in nature’s beauty and to travel the world. I would be a picture of health and happiness, a loving wife and mother, daughter, sister and friend. Life would be coming up roses!

However, ‘the once upon a time’ of my childhood dreams has not resulted in the ‘happily ever after’ I longed for. So what actually happened? Well, there have been ups and downs in my life. You might say I am an unpublished writer, as I am working on two novels that I have not shown to many people and that I work on privately in my ‘spare time’. Writing is an act of catharsis and release from trauma as well as a creative passion. I am neither a painter or cartoonist, but I do like to doodle, sketch every now and then, and indulge in adult colouring books. I have been called beautiful and pretty several times since my teenage years, but I also have a daily battle over being called ugly and disgusting from the painful days of childhood bullying and so my self identity is something I need to desperately refashion. I am single, neither a wife, girlfriend nor a mother, I am blessed with some good friends, however, my best childhood friend sadly passed away a few years ago. I have skin allergies and so a puppy is out of the question, and I own my own flat / apartment in the city. I have parks and a river nearby to where I live, I can take a longer trip and go to quiet beaches. I have battled health struggles over the years including severe eczema, severe clinical depression, panic attacks, generalised anxiety disorder, feelings of despair at life and wanting to end it all, post traumatic stress, complex trauma, nightmares, sleeplessness, chronic pain and so forth. I do live within an hour’s travel time of my parents, which is a huge blessing to me, and I have been fortunate enough to have a good education despite everything else going on, gained two first class degrees, have a full time job and have done some solo travelling!

So all in all, there are plenty of plusses and minuses, however, some seasons of my life have felt particularly dark. Now that there is more experience of the Light around me, I’d like to reach out to others and share some things that I find helpful when we are tempted to compare ourselves and lives unfavourably with the next person.

During times of suffering in my life, I have often been surrounded with good news from other people’s milestones in life, when I have felt like I was carrying a millstone. Perhaps you can relate? You’re going through a tough time, and emotionally you’re already struggling but then you get news of someone’s engagement, marriage celebration, first, second, third, fourth child while you remain childless, new home, travel adventures when you are not well enough to even leave the house. Know what I mean? Chances are if you’re reading this, you do.

However, that’s where choice and responsibility comes in. As does self-care. When you face a situation like that you may feel happy for your friend or the person who has come to good times in their lives, you may paint out the negatives in their lives and over emphasise in your mind the positives, you may feel a twinge of sadness and pain that you are not experiencing your longed for hopes and dreams. And that is exactly where choice comes in. Your choice. It is ok to feel what you feel, but what you do next is more important. Do you dwell on these unfavourable comparisons, do you indulge in feeling sorry for yourself, do you resent the other person, think ‘it’s not fair’, and go on a spiral of negativity?

Or do you celebrate that other person’s happiness, acknowledge your own feelings of sadness, take time out to take care of yourself and be grateful for the good in your own life? Because despite how ‘unfair’ things might seem, it is your choice and responsibility as to how you react, whether positively or negatively, what you allow your mind and heart to dwell on, and what you do to take a healthier path.

Your life matters. The things you take for granted, someone else is longing for. Truly longing for. One of the best relationships in my life is that which I have with my mum. I am grateful everyday, and yet probably not as deeply as I should be. A friend of mine volunteers with the city mission helping homeless people. She often comes into contact with women who have been abused, traumatised, addicted, raped, and sold into prostitution. We have prayed together for such people facing such terrible sadness. My friend told me of one particular woman, who was so relieved and even celebrated hearing of her mother’s death. This woman had been so abused and mistreated by her own birth mother, had been hurt and chewed up to such an extent that her death was a relief to her. I found this heart breaking. I think I appreciate my own mum all the more, and want to reach out to others in whatever small way I can in their suffering. Sometimes comparison can be good when it helps us to be more grateful and more compassionate.

I would encourage you to slow down, take time and really think of those things about yourself and that you have in your life that you are taking for granted. Things that other people are longing after. Take time and focus on your own little patch of green grass, water it, nurture it, and maybe even plant some seeds of love in someone else’s garden. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and add to the beauty that they already are blessed with. Mourn with those who mourn and plant something beautiful in someone who’s garden is dry and barren. And go that extra step in gratitude to express your thankfulness to the people who matter in your life. Give thanks to God. And know that your life is important, and it is up to you to nurture and invest in it. 🙂