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Why Comparing is Our Favorite Pastime

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

It’s true. Some of us are steeped in comparison our entire lives – constantly judging what we see as inferior or superior to our own personal experience. We ask ourselves, “Why are they doing that”, “Would I do that if it was me?” and finally the judgment, “I wouldn’t do, say, or be that way”.

I don’t like to say things are either bad or good, instead I ask the question if something is helpful or unhelpful. The evolutionary benefit of being able to judge what is helpful or unhelpful, keeps us fairly safe and healthy. Our brains are wired to notice patterns and changes in our environment; this is also evidence of our human evolution. So, it’s not an unhealthy thing to compare ourselves to others is it? Certainly, it’s a basic and useful human behavior, right?

Where I see that this becomes a problem is when people have the sense that life is supposed to be fair, or that life is just a big game of reward and punishment. If this was true, “bad things” wouldn’t happen to “good people” and the “good guys” would always win. Most adults would agree that these ideas are not true and the majority of children would argue that they must be true simply because their brains are in a state of development and “concrete” thinking. We know that as the brain develops into adulthood, abstract thinking and flexibility increases, the ability to consider a multitude of choices and outcomes occurs.

Instead of trying to stop judging ourselves and others, wouldn’t it be more helpful to simply acknowledge that we all have an individual way of experiencing the world and that the only common experience is through our hearts? We cannot judge what another person is doing in any situation when they are just living from their experience and their interpretation of it. I will never know what it’s like to live inside your head and vice versa.

What would it take for us to become more heart-centered beings instead of judging and criticizing machines? I was watching a TEDTalk the other day and the researcher was speaking about emotions. He said that it has been discovered that there are over thirty-five THOUSAND different emotions! Imagine that! Not only are we happy, we are joyous, ecstatic, elated, blissful and so on. Same is true for any “negative” emotions. In fact, if you think about it, we are far more likely to be having an emotion than a thought.

Let us consider then, how does comparing and judging feel in your body? Does judgment make you feel constricted, tight, defensive, or afraid? We know that there is a sympathetic nervous system that goes into fight, flight or freeze mode when we are in danger, is this perhaps what happens when our mind starts to judge? Do we become anxious and fearful, full of self-doubt or regret? What happens in our body when we feel these feelings? What happens in your body, how do you feel? If you are uncomfortable and want to stop reading and run away, wait, there is a solution, a healthier choice.

Consider for a moment stopping and allowing your feelings to be felt. Stop thinking about your feelings and just feel them. Stop judging your life against other people, stop justifying your life for a moment. Life is not a balance sheet of good verses bad. The only one keeping score is you. Just stop. Breathe. Take it all in and let it all out. Do it again and feel your stomach relax, your shoulders drop, your face melt. Just stop for a moment and breathe.

We are not our thoughts, we are not our feelings, we are humans having the experience of thoughts and feelings. We are the experiencer of life, not life. The lenses we see through are only in the body we inhabit, and how we think, feel and behave are feelings that are uniquely our own. Diversity is a universal law of nature, even when there are universal patterns at play. Your unique contribution to the world is a gift and it is necessary for the whole of life to be experienced. Just be you, be a person, be your unique self, feelings and all, no one else knows how to be you, and with no judgments you are impeccable.

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