Question: How can I stop comparing myself to other people? How can I be comfortable with my own path instead?
Comparing yourself to others is natural. There are so many other people out there. When we feel insecure, we tend to measure ourselves in relation to others. Why do we do this? By measuring, you decide whether you are doing well or not doing so well and decide whether or not you are happy.
You see, there are two ways you can experience the world. You can experience it through observing, or you can experience it through comparing.
Do you observe...or do you compare?
When you compare, you measure another person and then assess yourself based on that measure. This often happens when you are lacking confidence. Comparing yourself to someone else either boosts your confidence or erodes it further.
We are all unique. We are all individuals. We have so many qualities, life experiences and genetics that make up our unique being. With that in mind, how is it possible to compare ourselves with others?
So what can you do to stop yourself from these pointless comparisons?
On a practical, you can start by looking at your own qualities and acknowledging them. On a deeper level, you need to go inward and truly begin to take care of yourself.
Your perception of others comes from your own mind, which has the great 'skill' of seeing everything you see and sense through your own unique filter. If you compare yourself to others, you are using your unique filter to judge the other person. You are merely using your own habitual view of the world. This is the view that you always rely on. You make your own ideas of what you like and don't like, and as our life goes on, these become more solid.
This means that everything you see, touch, taste and smell is interpreted by the unique filter of your mind. Your senses perceive and send messages to your brain. Then your mind begins to create concepts and ideas. Your mind uses the information from outside of yourself. At the same time, it also weaves in your past experiences. This then creates your interpretation of your reality.
This aspect of your mind is a dualistic mind. It separates you into having a sense of self and others. This then causes judgement and comparisons.
Your mind is more powerful than you may think
Your mind is actually quite incredible and is much more than what you assume it is. Most of us believe that thoughts are what makes up our mind. We go through life unaware that thinking and forming ideas is only one aspect of our mind.
The way your mind works is almost automatic. It takes sensory information and immediately starts processing and assessing those perceptions. Is this good or bad or neutral? Do I like this or not? Should I have this or get rid of it?
You think you are assessing situations based on what is happening at the moment. However, you don't realise that you are immediately caught up in thinking, which feeds into your inner stories. These inner stories have been going on throughout your life. They fuel your beliefs and ideas. They say things like, that person is unfriendly, they didn't smile at me, don't like me, and make me feel uncomfortable. Then you create your judgements about that person; I don't like them either. They are mean, and I don't want to be around them.
Then your mind goes back to making comparisons; she has a more beautiful house, a more expensive car, a better career. What about me? I don't have those things. This is when you start to feel not so great about your own situation. However, it's only the mind that has decided that the person you are focussed on has better or worse circumstances than your own. Comparing is merely based on concepts - your discriminating mind processes things into good or bad. You then think that things need to be different for you to be happy instead of accepting things as they are.
Would you give a baby a Gucci handbag?
Imagine for a moment that a child is given a Gucci handbag. The child won't judge the bag. It will merely play with it the same way as if you gave it a cloth shopping bag.
There is no mind grasping on 'designer gear'. The child doesn't think, 'I want to keep this Gucci bag, and I don't want to play with the cloth bag'. The only thing that will matter is if the bag is fun to play with or not!
Imagine if you were able to apply this to yourself. Imagine seeing others without any sense of thinking, "I want that", or "I don't want that"; then, you would merely see the person and their life as an experience of noticing, observing, and rejoicing for their great fortune. If they lacked anything, you would feel compassion rather than a feeling of being better than them.
This mind of just noticing is operating from the 'spiritual 'aspect of mind, the part of your mind that makes no judgement and radiates only compassion, wisdom and love. This mind is actually always with you, and you have moments when you are in touch with those qualities, our human kindness, empathy and understanding.
Let's examine this more closely. Ultimately we are all the same. We all want happiness. That's what we all continually strive for. That's why you go shopping, buy a new car, book a holiday, enjoy parties, cocktails, whatever it is that makes you feel good inside.
The quick-hit of happiness
But this happiness feeling you get from all these things isn't a lasting happiness. It doesn't stay with you. It doesn't build up your 'happiness baseline' and give you a permanent state of well-being. The feelings dissipate, and once again, you are left with a longing. It's like an insatiable itch. The more you scratch, the more it will itch. It becomes like an addiction. In some way, we are all happiness addicts, trying to find that ultimate 'hit' that wipes out all the bad feelings and makes us feel good about ourselves and the world. This craving mind cannot be satiated by wanting more.
When you measure yourself by how others are doing, you fail to consider that they also have the same longing to be happy. They may feel good to some degree, but you don't actually know how they truly feel inside. Therefore, they can't be a measure for comparison, as you have no real idea of their world. You only go by your own assumptions from what you perceive of them.
Suppose you feel you are doing better than someone else. In that case, it's an assessment you make that has no factual basis outside of your thinking. It sets you up for competitiveness, a feeling that you are lacking or being better off. This robs you of feeling peace and well being.
So what can you do about this 'insatiable itch'? Right now, most of us try to calm it by buying more, doing more, acquiring more. We rely on the grasping aspect of the mind, the needing, wanting and constantly comparing ourselves to others to get a sense of if we are doing well or not. However, this brings no sense of wholeness and fulfilment. Instead, it is a vicious cycle of constantly desiring something more.
With the current Covid 19 situation, we have not had access to many things that we rely on to feel good, such as socialising and travelling. We have been forced to stay at home more, and on some levels, we have been left to face ourselves. This can feel painful.
When we are constantly feeding our desires, it is hard to suddenly reduce this stimulation. We rely on our ability to control what we do and get. So how can we turn this into something positive?
You must understand that the discursive judgmental mind will not see this as positive at all. It will egg you on to think that the situation is bad, that you will be lacking all the amazing things you usually have to feel good, and comparing yourself to others can become more intense. This mind will keep you busy thinking.
Well, there is good news! As mentioned earlier, there is the spiritual aspect of your mind. It isn't solely made up of wanting and needing, disliking, rejecting, ignoring. It is the ground of your mind, the core of your mind. It's where all the thinking radiates from, masking your awareness.
There's a place in your mind that's totally free
This part of your mind is free. It is like space. It doesn't judge. It just observes. It is aware of everything but doesn't turn it into a frantic storyline.
It is the innate natural mind. It is a consciousness that makes all living beings aware. It's what makes you conscious and perceiving. This is the difference between you and a stone, an insect and flower, a kitten and a diamond. A stone or diamond is inanimate, with no feelings, no sense of self, no awareness. Kittens, insects, you and I all have an innate awareness. This is the part of the mind which you have neglected because it has been clouded over by the constantly active thinking, assessing, discriminating, judging part of your mind. Instead, this part of your mind is the wisdom aspect of your mind, radiating love and compassion. It is where all your creativity stems from. This awareness has been hijacked by the busy part of the mind. This busy part of our mind uses your awareness and feeds it into your web of stories.
So if you take this wisdom aspect of your mind into your life, you open yourself to a spiritual path. This path brings you back to something you already have. The wisdom mind is always present within us all. However, the thinking mind has taken the awareness and used it for its own ends, grasping, needing, rejecting.
The current situation with Covid 19 enables you to take the plunge and begin to discover who is really behind all this web-spinning.
So be still. Just be. Know you are breathing. This is meditation, the doorway to our glorious inner mind. This will bring a sense of wholeness and well being, a discovery of who you truly are.
The gift of comparison
So any time you start to compare yourself to others, see it as a red flag. This is the mind that leads you off from your true self. It's the mind that compares, judges, assesses.
Instead, you can just let go of it all and enter the mind that is just aware, just noticing and observing. No more than that. You then no longer follow the story about yourself or anyone.
It's not an easy switch to make. You have to familiarise yourself with this aspect of your mind. How can you do this? The answer is through meditation. The practise of meditation will teach you how to reach the present moment. This means going behind the scenes and resting in the mind that is just aware, bypassing the thinking part of the mind.
To enter on the path of spiritual awakening takes motivation and drive. You must discover yourself on a deeper level, leaving behind the chattering mind that only wants to stir things up by comparing and judging.
These are all characteristics of the mind that is the ego. The ego has a very entitled sense of self and makes itself the centre of everything. It's that part of your mind that spins webs, taking all sensory information and bending it for its own use.
Ego really dislikes any kind of mediation or practice that brings you to your innate awareness, so it won't always be easy to maintain the practice. In some ways, you are making ego redundant by doing meditation, and it doesn't like that at all.
To stop comparing yourself to others and make yourself comfortable with your own path, you need to recognise the functions of your thinking mind. You then need to trust in your inner wisdom nature and set about its discovery through meditation, reflection, and understanding. This can shift your focus away from others and keep you on your spiritual path.
Once you begin to familiarise yourself with meditation practice, you need to remember to be just aware, not to get swept away by stories. You will find the knowledge that life isn't all that your discursive mind leads you to believe it is, embarking on a journey of self-discovery and inner richness.