The big comparison
It seems that everyone I speak to, clients, family, friends, even myself, have this destructive habit of comparing ourselves and our lives to others. We see others as having more worth because they have a bigger house, a flash car, a larger wage. They are better parents, a better wife or husband, more attractive than us. They are more thoughtful, tactful; know exactly the right things to say. They cope with daily stress so much more effectively than we do, never get anxious, are so confident when speaking in a group. They are successful, have built a thriving business or career. Need I continue?
Many clients have described how they "just know" that others are better than them.
People who have problems managing their weight explain to me how a family member eats like a horse and stays slim, yet they only have to look at a slice of cake and put three pounds on!
Parents who are struggling to deal with their two year old's wild temper tantrums tell me that the other mums at playgroup cope so much better than them. The other parents don’t get flustered, slowly turning red, half with shame, half with rage, ending up shouting at their little one out of frustration.
The client who is desperate for a promotion at work explains that they seem to get overlooked while their colleagues, who speak up in meetings, pushing themselves into the limelight to get noticed, inevitably get the promotion. They feel like they are being left behind because they lack the confidence to be that colleague whom they aspire to be. "Why do they find it so easy?" They ask.
The mum with postnatal illness explains that the other mums in the playground all look so amazing. They have their hair done and make up on, getting to school on time, chatting happily to the other parents, while she finds it too much effort to drag herself out of bed most mornings, then makes sure she’s late for the school run, avoiding any danger of having to make small talk at the school gates.
So how is it that everyone else finds life so much easier than we do? Is it more to do with perspective and comparing ourselves to other’s unreasonably idealistic lives, which are distorted by our own minds?
As human beings, we only allow others to see a small part of the real us, even those closest to us don’t always get to see every intricate layer of our psyche, some of them are even hidden from ourselves. This can also be true of our lives in general. Can we ever be sure that we know what someone else’s life is like, when we will never get the opportunity to live inside their mind and body, seeing through their eyes, feeling through their skin?
How does the overweight person know that the individual they envy for staying so slim, isn’t appearing to eat normally in front of people, yet is starving themselves the next day to avoid putting on weight because he/she has some kind of control issue regarding food?
The parent who is struggling to cope with a headstrong two year old may not see the other playgroup parents in the supermarket, "losing it" because they reach their wits end as their child scoops every can of baked beans off the shelf.
The person who is desperate for a promotion at work doesn’t know that the colleague he looks at with envy and admiration everyday, suffered from severe anxiety and panic attacks causing him to lose his last job through extended sick leave. He’s only where he is today because he had many sessions of therapy, finding the strength to face his demons head on, before completing hours of voluntary work giving him the necessary references and experience to find another job.
The mum who is struggling with postnatal illness doesn’t see the other mum at school who takes the time to ensure her hair and make-up look amazing every day so she can put "that face on" which shows everyone that she’s coping, that life is good, yet goes home every morning, crawls back into bed and cries the day away.
So how do we really see each other?
If we all look at each other’s lives through rose tinted spectacles the cycle continues. Each of us looks at the next person with this idealistic perspective, while that same person is probably looking at us with a similar vision of utopia. It’s an interesting thought, that at this very moment, someone may be thinking of you whilst feeling a sense of envy at an aspect of your life, that very aspect of life that you feel the same envy of someone else.
What’s the solution?
Maybe, the answer is to focus on the good things in our own life, the positive aspects of us and stop comparing ourselves to others. We spend so much time and energy on concentrating on others and their supposedly perfect lives that we forget to enjoy our own. Whose lives do we have control over? We can only ever directly control our own lives, and aspects of other people’s lives rarely have an impact on our own. Someone who feels jealousy regarding his or her friend’s monthly wage remains unaffected by the factor. Regardless of their feelings of jealousy, the wage remains the same. Their friend continues to receive the desired wage and the green-eyed person continues to receive their less desirable income. That is unless they choose to do something about it.
So maybe the answer is to stop comparing, and start concentrating on the positives in our own lives and building upon them. Hypnotherapy can help to change our perspective on life, encouraging a more positive outlook, as well as building confidence and self-esteem in order to bring beneficial change to our lives.
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