If I were to name a few bad habits, things you do that range from not being good for you to being downright destructive, you would likely name toxic habits like smoking, drinking too much, over eating, maybe even biting your finger nails or watching too much reality TV.
And while all of these habits are unsupportive or unhealthy, there is another bad habit that borders on toxic if not downright abusive that most of us are afflicted by, but that we aren't aware of or that we are just too embarrassed or ashamed to talk about.
This toxic habit is Comparison:
Comparison is the self sabotaging choice to compare yourself to another person in a way that makes you feel inferior, or to compare yourself to who you used to be (what you used to look like, what you used to have), and then judge yourself for not measuring up, for falling behind or for being a failure.
Comparing yourself is like consuming a green gallon of toxic poison -- makes you feel like crap, poisons your view of yourself, and kills your spirit. It's an instant happiness stealer. It makes you work way harder than you need to, because doing it makes you feel like you never have enough, do enough, or are good enough, because there is always someone better.
You know what I am talking about, yes?
The good news is that you are not the only one that compares their body/accomplishments/creations/bank accounts/relationships/yada yada. In fact this toxic habit starts young -- if you're a parent, your child is already doing it, and if you are a parent alive in today's crazy consumer-media frenzied society, chances are you doing it, too.
I can remember when I went to visit my goddess daughter Janie in Chicago when she was 6. We were sitting on the couch after a day out celebrating her, and I asked her "Do you ever compare yourself?" She replied dumbfounded, "What is comparison?" As a kindergartener, she had no concept of comparing herself to another because she didn't do it. Fast forward to my visit the next year, when she was 7, and the four years since, when we have had long conversations and interventions regarding her "inner mean girl," the Comparison Queen Victoria.
Victoria loves to compare Janie to her older sister. Although Jane is super bright, beautiful, funny, a voracious reader and blossoming young writer (she is already working on her first novel), when her sister shines, all Jane can see is how she isn't as good of a dancer as her sister, she's not as funny as her sister, and she's not a natural performer like her sister. So Victoria says to her, "Why can't you be more like your sister. Everyone loves her and no one cares about you." Ouch!
Victoria, like most inner mean girls, especially Comparison Queens is vicious.
While I hate that Janie has to deal with this Inner Mean Girl, like I said they start to develop around the age of 7 and I haven't met a grown woman without one yet, I am so grateful we have a way to interact with this force within her in a way that empowers her to change her thoughts and remember how talented, beautiful, and special she is -- just as Jane, no one else.
And while Jane may only be 11, I think she speaks for all of us, especially women, who sadly compare ourselves all the time.
So what did I tell Jane to help her deal with this nefarious force? How did I give up comparison five years ago because just like when I gave up smoking over a decade ago, I was sick and tired of how it made me feel like crap?
I found the cure for comparison and then started applying it!
Instead of comparing ourselves to others people, we can use their greatness to inspire our own.
The antidote to comparison is inspiration.
When I realized this, it was like this huge light bulb went off, as I saw so clearly how comparing ourselves to anyone else is actually insane, because there is no way we can be another person.
Think about it. There is no way, scientifically or spiritually, that you could be someone else. Their life circumstances, their DNA, their destiny is one of kind, just like yours. So even if you got a complete physical makeover to look like that person, you could'nt be them. Even if you copied exactly what they did, you could not replicate their path or success identically. It is literally impossible to be someone else, which makes comparing yourself not just a toxic habit but total insanity!
Next time your inner mean girl or inner mean dude the Comparison Queen rears it's ugly head, try this self-love antidote. It worked for me and for Jane and thousands of others, and here is how this can work for you too:
1. Realize that anytime you compare yourself to another, you are actually witnessing something inside of YOU that wants to be set free, express itself more, or be acknowledged (most of all by you!). Your Comparison Queen or King is just afraid of risks, progress, rejection, and your greatness which is why it does crazy things like get jealous, judge others, turn a friend's great news into a reason to feel bad about yourself; measure you against people who have accomplished amazing feats or who are doing what you really want to do but haven't done yet; make your good news seem like it's not enough... but that's all a smoke screen for your greatness. So next time you compare yourself notice that what you are seeing in someone else is also present inside of you.
2. Apply Inspiration ASAP. Reach out to this person and tell them how they inspire you. Remember a time you recently compared yourself to someone else - in addition to feeling crappy about yourself, notice it also made you feel isolated, separate and alone. Prime time for an Inner Mean Girl or Inner Mean Dude attack! Comparison creates disconnection. So next time you start comparing yourself, instead of disconnecting, I dare you to CONNECT... with the exact person you are comparing yourself too:
• Reach out to that person and tell them specifically what inspires you about them! If you are in person with them, go talk to them. If you are not in person, email or facebook them. Even if you don't know them!
When you reach out in inspiration you are taking an act of self-love (by accepting yourself instead of comparing yourself) and an act of love (by opening your heart to connect with this other person, because who doesn't appreciate being told that they are inspiring?)
If you start transforming your comparison into inspiration, I promise you miracles will start to happen for you. Jane transformed Vicious Victoria into the heroine in her new novel, Victorious Victoria, transforming her into a courageous, confident vampire slayer, and now at the age of 11 is writing her first novel. Shortly after I reformed my Comparison Queen, Mean Patty, I reached out to a woman who was doing a big event that I had always wanted to do, and told her that she inspired me. She emailed me back, we met for lunch and a hike, and now 5 years later, we are about to release a book we co-authored together.
You just never know what is possible when you give up toxic habits and choose to support yourself instead of sabotage yourself. That's what we call self-love!