I’ve joked for years now that I could give a lot of people I know a great day just by setting their bathroom scales back a couple pounds. The significance we place upon numbers (weight, dress/pant size, chronological age, amount of wages/savings/investments) reflects our tendency to judge ourselves in ways that are very different than the manner in which we judge others.
It brings to mind a Facebook meme I’m fond of, “I’m not in competition with anyone. I hope we all win.” I’d only care about your numbers if they’re a cause of joy or consternation to you. I’ll be happy for you as you achieve your goals and I’ll want to help if you are struggling. Otherwise, what difference does it make in my life what any of your numbers are?
Insecurity leads us to comparison. Funny thing about that – we rarely (if ever) contrast ourselves to others to feel better/superior. We do it to put ourselves down. Our approach to self control tends to be mean spirited.
This leaves us alternating between self persecution and self pity. We need to catch ourselves thinking/saying “I just wish..” or “I’ll be happy when…”
We look at others and judge our worth relative to theirs. If only I were… as thin as she, as successful, as popular, as smart, as blah, blah, blah.
If someone has what I want I seek to learn from them. Envy is ugly and it serves to distance us from one another. Numbers are social currency. If we see ourselves as less then, we are unlikely to enlist the support of others and that leaves us struggling alone.
In my office, a particularly lovely staff member hangs signs that say things like, “Imagine if we obsessed over the things we love about ourselves?” This serves as a reminder to me that we tend to seek the best in others and the worst in ourselves.
Once we move beyond the superficial, the comparisons we make to others are invalid. We contrast our insides to other people’s outsides. We know how we feel and make assumptions about others based on how they appear to be.
We know better than to judge a book by its cover and we do it anyway. Our judgments reaffirm long held but false beliefs: We’re not good enough as we are.
While I wouldn’t dream of judging another person by the size of their bodies, their bank account, their home or the number of folks who read their blog; I’ve been guilty of subjecting myself to all of these.
It begs the question, “How good is good enough?”
I often ask what evidence folks have you that they are not enough? It seems more plausible to me that the things that are lacking in our lives are more a product of the company we keep than any reflection of our intrinsic worth.
Perfectionism is far more common than we may imagine because it maintains the illusion that we can get what we want from the people we want it from instead of acknowledging the possibility that they may not have it to give!
Maybe the best way to move beyond the unbalanced scales we use is to honestly evaluate the people in our lives. Too many of us were born to unhealthy families. Too many of us entered into disappointing partnerships. Too many of us want to believe that control is the best response to being afraid.
Instead of walking away from unhealthy people and situations, we endlessly strive and fight losing battles with ourselves. I won’t try to convince you that some of the folks around you need to go. Instead I’ll ask if you’re willing to add some supportive folks who want to share what they’ve learned.
It’s what I love about any 12 step or otherwise collaborative program – we all fare better when we choose to share both struggles and solutions.