Phew! It’s not just me! — the suffering of comparison

When we’re in turmoil it’s very normal to look around to see if others are in turmoil too — and it’s not the salvation we imagine it to be. Read this to find out how we go beyond ideas of needing to be like others, and into freedom.

*I’m really not coping with lockdown, thank goodness others are struggling too.

*I don’t know what I’m doing, phew nobody else does either.

*I think that person is wrong / out of order / rude, so hooray for everyone that agrees with me and boo to anybody who doesn’t.

*I made a decision and some people disagreed. I like those who agreed. They’re smart.

In all of these, who is the one that is relieved?

It’s not you. Not the real you. It’s an idea of a you that thinks there’s a right way to do life and a right way to be. From that idea, of course there’s a feeling of relief when it finds others with the same struggles. Now that idea of me thinks it’s safe, that it has a tribe. Phew! Thank goodness! I’m not alone.

But, as with everything in the experience of this idea of who we think we are — hot on its heels, a flip of the coin, and there’s the other side of its existence…I feel so alone. Isolated.

*It looks like everyone else has got it sorted, jeez I’d better get my act together.

*It looks like others know more, I’d best learn that stuff.

*It seems that others can get their point across brilliantly, I might just quietly sit here in the hopes nobody notices my ineptitude.

Oh my goodness I feel so alone.

In the seeking of security in what others are doing, that idea of self finds itself in this choppy water being tossed from ‘phew!’ to ‘uh oh’ or even ‘argh!’ moment to moment.

But it was never to do with those others. Those others are not an objective reality. They only appear as a function of thought in the moment.

Thought changes, experience changes.

You could be in a meeting with others who are speaking eloquently and think nothing of it, no thoughts of ‘me and my capabilities’ are present. You feel connected to your fellow meeting attendees, engaged, ready to share something. Then the next moment an arbitrary thought pops up and immediately gets correlated to that person — ‘oh look at them, they’re so brilliant, I’m so rubbish, I need to be better’.

Contraction happens and yukky feelings appear. Freeze response. Urgh now I feel scared, incapable, small. Disconnected from everyone. Separate and alone. No talking happens. Or maybe a fight response and words come out as angry or arrogant. Quickly followed by self-berating thoughts of how we shouldn’t be like that (irrespective of what ‘that’ is). And all of it coming from the same place — from the temporary idea of a me and association with ‘this’ thought, believing it says something about me or about them.

It was never anything to do with me or them. They just temporarily appeared as a threat, in the presence of a temporary thought of an incapable me that got believed.

And — we don’t need to do anything with those thoughts or feelings.

How do we do this then?

We’ve been taught — ‘you need to have the right thoughts to have the right kind of life’ which of course hinges on 3 key illusions

  1. The illusory idea of being able to control thoughts
  2. The illusory idea of there being a right and a wrong way to do life
  3. The illusory idea of a me with certain limits and abilities

We’ve been chasing round in this illusory field for so long. Now it’s time to lift our heads and look to what’s real.

So instead, start noticing how, as soon as thought changes, experience changes, and ‘you’ didn’t do it.

Notice how as soon as there’s no consideration of ‘I’ and its imagined needs, everything’s OK.

It’s been hiding in plain sight all these years.

Now we can turn around and see it.

And the more we see it, the more we realise comparison to feel better is a prison. No real freedom or relief to be found in ideas of you or me, better or worse. Instead, beyond the ideas — that’s the real freedom. Where comparison just provides interesting information and guides choices and decisions. None of it saying anything about your worth or their worth. Now walking your path — sometimes with others, sometimes not. All OK. Just this.


With love, Helen

I work with people who want a quieter mind and a more fulfilling life. They’re smart, passionate people who are curious about there being a better way. They’ve worked hard to get to here and yet something’s still missing: ‘is this it?’. In our work we explore and reconnect to innate brilliance so they rediscover a quieter mind, fulfillment and balance. Find out more here.

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