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Jumping Off the Comparison Treadmill

Jumping Off the Comparison Treadmill

“You’re so slim,” said the athletically-built woman sitting across the table from me at a local lunch spot.

I told her how much I weighed.

“But you are so tiny,” she persevered.  I reminded her that I’m 5’ 8’ and have size 12 feet (don’t judge).

“I know, I’m shrinking,” she said.

Who was she seeing as she sipped her bowl of soup? It didn’t seem to be me, I thought.

By any objective standard, my friend is younger, slenderer, and yes, shorter than I am.

Somehow, whatever the reality, she seemed to be constructing a figure against whom she wouldn’t, couldn’t measure up.

I get it. I make comparisons too. Every day I sit down at the computer and joust with an invisible army of men and women who are better writers, more famous, earn bigger salaries, and have legions of adoring fans awaiting every word that flows from their fertile imagination.

I know that pitting myself against strangers and friends isn’t healthy. But I do it anyway.

Perhaps we all do it.

And while a certain amount of a competitive instinct might act as a motivator at work or in an exercise class, we also are finding out that comparisons can lead to depressive behaviors, particularly when there is already a cause of stress or sadness in our lives.

Think of the “Facebook” effect—that’s what happen sometimes when you see people’ carefully curated photos as you are clicking through your updates. Wow, she’s engaged! I didn’t know they were on a four-week tour of Ireland! Was she really a good enough (you insert the profession) to win that competition?

How can we jump off the invidious (not healthy) treadmill of comparisons that bring us down rather than push us forward?

A bit of perspective never hurts, does it?

What you often experience as a deeply personal rejection may have little to do with you.

Generally, the standards you set for yourself are more realistic than the ones you create out of the lives of others.

And you may have more (friends, health, financial success, affirmation) than you think in your bleaker moments.

Which leads to gratitude.

It’s not always easy.

But practicing thankfulness widens the lens of your mind—and perhaps even that of your heart.

You already have a foundation. You alone are capable of building on it.

Look how long it took the Philly football team—the Eagles—to get to the Superbowl! If they had spent their practice time comparing themselves to the seemingly invincible Patriots, they might never have believed they were capable of winning.

So are you. Just forget about the Tom Bradys in your life—and focus on the gifts scattered around your life right now.

As the cliché goes—be yourself. Everyone else is taken.

What can you make of your gifted life, today?

This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Evans is a freelance writer, columnist and mother of two young adults. Her work has been published in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Religion News Service, LNP Media Inc., the National Catholic Reporter/Global Sisters Report and many other media outlets.

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