You’ve heard it over and over again. It’s not a competition. I say it to my kids and I say it to my clients and I say it to myself every darn day and yet my mind loves to go to a place of comparison. Especially when I think I’m the loser in this Pepsi challenge sans Pepsi.
I was watching Elmo the other day and it was a really good episode. I watch Elmo because it’s so much better than watching Caillou or trying to keep my 17-month-old entertained on my own. Elmo was comparing things. He was comparing different shapes and colors and foods and other random things and I made a mental note that comparing is considered Math for toddlers so maybe Math IS evil just like I always suspected. Thanks Elmo.
If you find yourself doing toddler Math and then feeling badly about yourself from time-to-time, you might be interested in understanding why and what it can tell you about yourself.
Why Your Mind Loves Comparison
You are here today because your ancestors were good at looking out for trouble. As cave men they had to be on the look out for tigers or snakes or a really cold night with no fire. Literally, their survival depended on predicting possible problems. You inherited the ability to look out for trouble and yet today, in our modern world, there is not a lot of physical danger looming.
Now here is the part that I find really fascinating. When it comes to looking out for trouble, your brain doesn’t differentiate between your physical body and your emotional spirit. In other words, the part of the brain that signals
You are about to be attacked by a mountain lion!
is the same part that says:
You are about to be humiliated in front of people!
This mechanism is necessary and it’s only looking out for you, trying to protect you and taking care of you. However, generally speaking, there is no danger so you can tell it to relax.
I like to tell myself, “Hey mind! Thanks for pointing out how all the other moms at school drop off are showered and dressed and I’m the only one with bed head this morning. Thanks for looking out for us, but there is no real danger here. People probably don’t really care or notice and if they do, I give people permission to disapprove of me if they want to. You can just relax. Everything is fine. PS – Thanks for taking care of my ancestors so I could be here today. Love you to pieces.”
What It Is Telling You
When you notice yourself feeling like you’re not doing so hot (or noticing how much you’re beating out everyone around you), pay attention to what it’s about. We do not compare ourselves to others in areas we feel completely confident in. We only do it when we’re not sure about whether or not we are enough.
For example, let’s take a simple task, which you probably feel pretty confident about, like pouring a glass of water. You could be pouring water with someone else and you probably wouldn’t take note of which one of you did a better job. Even if you weren’t paying attention and spilled the water all over the floor, you wouldn’t get all worked up in your mind about how that other person is so much better at it than you. You might be annoyed at the mess you’ve made, but because you know you’re very capable in this area you wouldn’t turn it into a water-pouring competition in your mind.
So, when my mind tries to flag me down for potential trouble, it’s a sign that this is an area I need to do some work on. If it’s about my appearance, I’ve just received a message that maybe I want to examine my thoughts about my appearance or appearances in general and see what I believe in that area. I can decide if I want to keep believing those thoughts (sometimes I do!) or not and I know that if I truly want to evolve into the next version of myself, I’ve just found an area where I can do some work to help me do so.
Sometimes I know I’m not ready and that’s ok. Other times I am totally ready to change some of my beliefs or adopt some new beliefs and I love it when that happens. Those small changes, practiced over and over again, are what refine us as people and bring us closer to feeling genuine love and peace in this life. When we know that we are enough and so is everyone around us, we stop worrying that we might be in danger and realize that there is no shortage of happiness or joy or money or time or love and that everyone is supposed to be different.
So remember, it’s not bad that your mind thinks everything is a competition. It’s how we’re wired and it got us where we are today. But usually there is no danger and there is no competition. Unless you’re a contestant on the Bachelor, in which case it IS for sure a competition with only one grand prize of true love and fierce competitors so please bring all the crazy you’ve got for those of us at home who would like to be entertained on Monday nights. #newseason #whenwillthisshowend? #iloveit
Leave me a comment about what area makes your mind switch to comparison mode. Then, make sure you check out our new free video series – 3 Simple Tips for Being a Mom Without Going Insane
Have a fantastic week!