Posted by Karen Degen on 10th June 2019
I’ve been thinking a lot about comparison lately. If someone tells me I look younger than I actually am I feel good about myself. Why? I’m comparing myself (or others are) with ‘the norm’ and finding that I either fit the norm, am less than the norm or am better than the norm. In that case I’m in the ‘better than norm’ category. If I look at the cellulite on my thighs and feel bad about myself, its only because I’m comparing my thighs to others who don’t have cellulite, or have less. That comparison puts me in the ‘less than norm’ category.
I had a client who, when asked why she couldn’t love and accept herself, answered “because there’s this box that society calls ‘acceptable’ and I’m completely outside of it”. That box could also be called ‘the norm’, and she was outside of it. She was still amazing and wonderful even though she wasn’t ‘the norm’. However, it was a fact that many people had judged her as being less-than. Therefore she judged herself as less-than.
It got me to wondering, what would she have felt about herself if there was no ‘box of acceptable’, or no ‘normal’? What would she have felt if there was no comparison? Yes, I know that’s not possible, but imagine for a second what the world would be like if comparison didn’t even exist. I think it would be pretty amazing. The poor wouldn’t know they were poor. The fat wouldn’t know they were fat. The ugly wouldn’t know they were ugly. The gay wouldn’t know they were different.
I always tell my clients that one of the ways to be happy is to always feel good about yourself, no matter what other people say or think, or how they judge you. Just don’t judge yourself. Good advice (if I do say so myself), but its actually pretty hard for some people. Especially if you’ve been judged by others your whole life. If you’ve been compared and found lacking. If you’ve been attacked for being less-than, often even physically, as was the case with my client.
Luckily the world is changing, albeit slowly. Now its illegal to discriminate against or target certain types of people e.g. gay, or more recently Muslim. It wasn’t always that way. We are starting to compare less and include more.
This was demonstrated wonderfully after the attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand on March 15th 2019. One of the first things that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said was “You are us”.
No comparison is present in those words. It means we are all in the same ‘box of acceptability’ or the same normal.
The day after the attack, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern received a phone call from President Donald Trump who asked what offer of support the United States could provide. Her answer was “sympathy and love for all Muslim communities.”
Wouldn’t it be great if we could think “you are us” when we look at our fellow human beings? Wouldn’t it be great if we did away with comparison entirely? It’s a big ask, but as we wait for that to happen, we can start with ourselves. We can stop comparing ourselves. Start now.