Many of us grew up being compared to others. Perhaps you were compared to siblings, or to other kids in the neighborhood. Certainly, schools foster comparing children to others during classroom time and with grades. Most of the environments children participate in include comparisons.
My 8-year-old grandson is home-schooled, so he has not experienced the comparisons that go on in the school environment. He is being brought up in a wonderfully loving, highly creative, non-competitive learning environment. However, my daughter recently took him to a religious school where they were making religious objects -- which he enjoyed. At the end of his time there, the teacher told him that his creation was the best in the class. On the way home, my grandson said to my daughter, "Mom, when the teacher said that mine was the best, I felt like she sucked the creativity right out of me." Needless to say, she did not take him there again.
This is what comparing does. It shuts us down, sucking out the intrinsic joy of learning and creating, and undermines our sense of worth. Unfortunately, many people have absorbed the messages of comparison and now do it to themselves -- especially comparing looks, intelligence and performance.
Monica asked me this question:
Hi Dr. Paul. Please advise how I would remedy my tendency to always comparing myself to other women, especially feeling inferior and threatened when I'm dating a man, but also feeling jealous of those who are ahead of me professionally.
Charles asked me a similar question:
How do I stop comparing myself to other people? It's almost like a knee jerk reaction. I was often compared to others when growing up and it mostly left me feeling "not good enough," which is what it still does to me. Although I have the head knowledge, and I'm aware that I do it, I still am having trouble not doing it to myself. I frustrate myself with this.
Healing the Low Self-Worth That Fosters Comparisons
If you knew about and valued your intrinsic qualities -- such as your kindness, compassion, lovingness, creativity, openness, playfulness, lightness of being, caring, intuition, empathy, tenacity, spunkiness, sense of humor, introversion or extroversion, innate talents and abilities, your unique form of intelligence and so on -- and you based your worth on your intrinsic qualities rather than on your looks or performance, how would you feel about yourself? The chances are you would feel so happy with who you are in your essential self that it would not occur to you to compare yourself to others.
The problem is that most people have lost touch with their essence -- their true self -- and they think they are their outer, false self -- their ego-wounded self. If you don't know your essence, it is likely because your parents or other caregivers didn't know their essence, and therefore could not reflect your essence to you as you were growing up.
It is your ego-wounded self who may have absorbed the false belief that your worth is about your looks and performance. If this is how you define your worth, then it is likely that you are suffering like Monica and Charles, believing yourself to be inferior if you don't look as good as someone else, or you don't make as much money as someone else, or don't drive as expensive a car or have as expensive a house, or are not married with children, or you are not as well known as someone else.
High self-worth or low self-worth is the result of how we treat ourselves -- not about what others think of us. I've worked with some beautiful and handsome, wealthy and famous people who felt that they were not good enough. If looks, performance and approval are what create self-worth, then they would have felt great about themselves.
The reason they continued to believe they were not good enough is because they were judging themselves based on their external, transient qualities of looks and performance, rather than valuing their authentic and enduring intrinsic qualities. As long as they were judging themselves, they were creating their low self-worth, and as long as they didn't feel worthy, they continued to compare themselves to others.
Discovering Your Intrinsic Worth
You cannot see your true, essential self through the eyes of your ego-wounded self. Your wounded self decided long ago that who you are isn't good enough, so your essence might be buried beneath the false beliefs of your wounded self.
In order to see your true essence, you need to open to learning from a higher, wiser part of you. Imagine an older, wise part of you, your inner wise self. Imagine that this older, wise part of you is gazing with love at you as a child, just as loving grandparent might look at a grandchild. See if you can describe you as you were when you were a very small child, before you developed your fears and false beliefs. Do you see your light? Do you see your lovingness? What else do you see? What makes you lovable? What makes you uniquely you? What makes you inherently worthy -- worthy of being loved by you today?
This child -- this essence -- is still who you inherently and authentically are today. The more you learn to love and value your unique essence, the less you will find yourself comparing yourself to others. You will know that, not only is your worth not dependent on the transient qualities of looks and performance, but that you are a completely unique expression of the divine. There is only one you.
You are incomparable!
Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is a relationship expert, best-selling author, and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process, recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette, and featured on Oprah. To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox" - the first two weeks are free! Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.
For more by Margaret Paul, Ph.D., click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.