What is this obsession many of us have with comparisons? Where does this come from? How does it affect your relationship with yourself? With others? How might your life be different if you let go of comparisons?
This theme of comparison has come up a lot recently in my life. I have noticed this with my coaching clients, friends, and colleagues. It seems this "compulsion to compare" phenomenon exists regardless of cultural or generational influences. Comparisons have become a human conditioning marked by the deficit-minded thinking that is plaguing society. What if instead of continuing to propagate a culture of comparison and the toxicity inherent in deficit-minded thinking, we chose to create an environment that cultivated acceptance and celebrated each person's uniqueness? What if this started with self?
I recently had a conversation with a Chinese-American woman, I'll call her Jane, about the coaching and people development work I do. She was intrigued by how I connect people with their purpose and passion through their strengths. This led to a fascinating conversation about Jane's approach to parenting. Jane is a mother of two daughters, aged 14 and 12. Jane experienced challenges with comparison, and more generally external expectations of her, in her formative years and into her adult life. Jane came through her process with these challenges with a resolve that when she had children, things would be different for her kids.
As she reflected on her life experiences, Jane shared with me how she came to her choice to raise her daughters in an environment that did not encourage or promote comparison with anyone but yourself. She did not want to inject the toxicity that comparison tends to cultivate into her daughters' thinking, beliefs, values, and behaviors. I felt something profound and loving in Jane's choice. Jane's keen self-awareness, deep commitment to her responsibility as a parent, and confident vulnerability in her conviction to be the change she wanted to see in the world made an impression on me. She knew better through her experience, and she was determined to apply what she learned to create a healthier environment for her daughters to live, learn, and grow.
While I expect Jane is not the only one who has taken this approach to parenting, she is the first parent I have met who has done so with such determination and intention. What if each of us intentionally chose to apply our life's learning to create an environment where children would not be compared and judged but accepted and loved? What if we honored our struggle, our values, and our beliefs with the same conviction and self-awareness Jane demonstrated in her choice?
For Jane, it was about giving her daughters the foundation of values and beliefs that promote self-esteem, self-confidence, valuing your uniqueness, and appreciating differences. Success became being a better version of yourself rather than being better than someone else. What a wonderful role model these two girls have in their mother.
I felt connected with this woman as she shared her story and described why this was important to her. As I listened, Jane stoked my curiosity. Questions flooded my mind. How does this affect her children's emotional intelligence? How does this influence her children's ability to deal with adversity or change? How does this manifest in her children's self-esteem? How does this affect her children's self-awareness? How does this influence her daughters' ability to see different perspectives and effectively engage with others?
As Wayne Dyer said, "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change." What comparison and "being the best" thinking cultivates is a scarcity or deficit mindset that fosters toxicity, often in the form of "I am less than or I am not good enough" thinking. On the other hand, acceptance cultivates an abundance mindset that says when we all bring our unique contributions to the world, the universe of opportunity, fulfillment, and success expands for everyone.
Acceptance (without judgment) connects you with your inner truth, and creates the space for being your best. It says I know who I am and I know who I am not and I am okay with both. In this environment, competition with others shifts to competition with yourself. Your focus becomes meeting yourself where you are and getting better from there. It is about amplifying your strengths rather than fixing your weaknesses. Success is viewed as a journey of self-discovery and evolution rather than a singular win/lose outcome. Failure becomes a launching pad for learning and improving rather than a crippling indictment on your self-worth. Building upon what you have (growth) becomes your way of being and failure wonderful gifts of learning on your personal growth journey.
When you choose acceptance over comparison, you create possibilities you had not seen before. You honor and are more gentle with yourself, and in doing so you open up the reservoirs to the best of yourself. You feel empowered to write and share the story of your life with your pen, rewriting it as you see fit, rather than living it through someone else's lens. Possibilities begin to emerge for your personal growth, human connection, interdependent collaboration, innovation, creativity, and unimaginable success. Possibilities rooted in your uniqueness, in accepting all that you are and all you are not and being okay with both.
What if I asked you to shift your mindset from being the best to being your best. What becomes different for you?
As human beings, we do not enter the world with a comparison mindset. This is learned behavior. We are born with curiosity, acceptance, joy, and love. We become programmed from birth to compare ourselves to others. We become influenced by others and learn from their experience and through their lens. Initially our values and beliefs are shaped by family and friends, eventually teachers, childcare providers, peer groups, and many others. Their distinctions shape our views.
What happens when you realize your inner truth is incongruent with the beliefs you have adopted and the thought habits you carry?
This incongruence can leave you feeling lost or confused. You may feel a sense of obligation to honor your upbringing, traditions, and expectations from family and culture. But silently, perhaps painfully, inside you yearn to be true to what is in your heart, what is in your soul, what is in the very fiber of your being. What if you have conditioned yourself in such a way that you have shut off access to your inner wisdom? How do you connect with it? What resources can help you connect with your purpose and your passion?
Your truth may contradict others' expectations of and for you. How will you handle this? The possibilities you see will be a reflection of your values, your unique distinctions. Situations like these reveal your character and your inner truth. They reveal possibilities. What is your inner voice telling you? Are you listening?
As human beings, we are always in choice. Will comparisons and cultivating deficit-minded thinking continue to be your practice? Will you choose to suppress your voice, your inner wisdom, your truth because of limiting beliefs you hold, external expectations or because others disagree with it? Or will you, like Jane, choose to boldly be the change you want to see in the world?
Happiness comes from within. Each human being has a right to happiness. Are you connected with your inner wisdom? Are you honoring it? If not, what if you did? What would be different in your life?
I want to thank Jane for inspiring this post, awakening me to new possibilities, and for being the change she wanted to see in the world. What change do you want to see in the world? What is your first step to becoming that change?
Be Bold. Be You. Breakthrough.℠