Ah… like an old friend, isn’t it? This part of us that loves comparing ourselves to others. This is something that we all do and one of the things that makes us so human. I wonder if this is an innate tendency that we are born with, or have we acquired it from the society as we grew? Interestingly, we more often ‘compare up’ rather than ‘compare down’. The main benefit for such a behaviour is that it serves as a benchmark for our growth and evolution. Otherwise, for the most part, it dampens our sense of worthiness.
This week’s article is a longer one as it touches on a few related topics that I’m sure many of you would identify with.
The two things that you likely compare most frequently are possessions (what they have) and achievements (what they do). I used to experience jealousy whenever I compare myself to others whom I regard as being better off. Thankfully, that jealousy has subsided and healthier feelings of envy or admiration have taken its place instead. I must admit that they are regular visitors in my mind more often than I would like to! Oh… look at that dream wedding that she just had; or that successful business that is generating a remarkable income; or that perfect body that looks good in any attire; or that beautiful house by the sea that they live in… oh how I wish… and the list goes on. Can you identify with these voices too?
The third thing that we compare, to a lesser degree, is attitude and personality (who they are).
I was brought up to think that it is. It is bad to experience anger, much less to express it. After all, good girls don’t get angry. Good girls are nice and well-behaved and everyone likes them. And so I learnt to suppress my own feelings of anger and to please others in exchange for a pat of approval.
It is only in the recent years of my adult life that I am learning to let go of the belief that anger is bad and, consequently, that I am bad if I experience or express anger. Here’s sharing a poem I wrote to Anger in the aftermath of its visit recently, a visit which brought precious clarity on the issue at hand.
A few days ago I told my husband something which left him baffled. I had this little hypothesis in my head that being with me has brought more pain rather than joy into his life and I wanted to check the validity of that thought. This was after I had gone through an emotional phase which I now attribute to hormones and stress, and that thought had emerged during an evening of reflection.
What was the story that brewed in my mind? Before we got together, he was a single man and could freely steer his life, career and dreams in whatever direction he wishes. Now that it is a shared life, there are more things for him to consider, sacrifices to make, expectations to manage, and a woman to handle. He had signed up for a package which also includes a monthly dose of emotional spells that show up like clockwork. Being the patient, thoughtful and solution-oriented person he is, he would take it upon himself to resolve the crisis that his woman seems to be going through, which is ironically being further expressed because of the safe space that he provides.
If you have ever been in a relationship, you would likely have gone through a similar experience and realised that this ‘suffering’ is part of the deal.