Theodore Roosevelt is quoted as saying “comparison is the thief of joy”. So what does that mean? For me it speaks to the inability to enjoy our own life if we are constantly comparing it to the perceived life of others. Like comparing our everyday life to everyone else’s Instagram life. The instagram life is all filtered and packaged for maximum effect. We all know that life doesn’t exactly show up in this way. Well at least mine doesn’t, but I suspect I am not alone in this. When we allow comparison to be the guiding force in our lives, it impacts our capacity for vulnerability. We may be unwilling to take risks, or step out and reveal our true selves for fear of not being as “good or capable” as someone else. Our instinct is often to take stock of all the people in a room and then gauge our self expression based on how we rank ourselves in comparison to everyone else. It doesn’t take much to see how this can greatly impact our willingness, or our ability, to show up just as we are. We may want to blend in or not be “too much”, whatever that may mean in any given situation. This instinct or conditioned response may have us holding back or “playing small”. The opportunity exists to look at the areas where we are comparing ourselves to others or “playing small” and begin to explore how we can use vulnerability to harness the magnificence of our authentic selves.
Choosing to be vulnerable enough to express our authentic selves is not always easy. However, the choice becomes whether or not we allow ourselves to be limited by the experiences that attempt to stand in the way, or to look them in the face and move anyway. Rumi said, “move, but don’t move the way fear makes you move.” I would edit this to say, “move but don’t move the way comparison makes you move”. Shifting our perspective and our tendency to compare ourselves to others can be challenging. Our brains are wired to compare and categorize. So instead of removing the tendency to compare from our experience totally, which is impossible, the goal is to begin to shift our reactions to these comparisons when they show up in our brain. Allowing them to be just what they are…thoughts… and then showing up and moving in ways that are in alignment with who we are.
An often forgotten truth in conversations about vulnerability, is there are many within our world for whom being vulnerable is challenging and sometimes unsafe. Comparison in these situations is not just an individual construct, but one that has been woven into the very fabric of societal systems and frameworks. This is the work, this is the call to action. Understanding that comparison, and all the fear and uncertainty that may come with it, are not things to be avoided, ignored, or suppressed. Instead, their presence becomes a beacon, a microscope in which to view our lives, our communities, and our world. It is in this close-up view that we can begin the work of removing the barriers to vulnerability and living the life we all were born to live.