I find it funny how I can feel completely content whilst I sit at home, but if you put me in the ring with a few other women, one of two things may happen. I can feel completely at home and connected with a sense of belonging. Or I can feel inadequate, not enough and completely at a loss due to comparison. This comparison can range from insecurities that my face is without foundation to feeling left wanting, for not having private health insurance. Something that is more sinister than “Compare the Meerkat”.
I was talking with a good friend recently about how shame researcher and writer, Brene Brown, talks about the difference between “fitting in” and belonging. Where “fitting in” makes the individual need to blend in and change, belonging rather, upholds individualism and is where acceptance abounds.
What is bizarre is that the comparison is more fierce for me when it is women that I am comparing myself to. Moreover if she has some similarities to me, such as age, occupation or stage of life, the problem seems to skyrocket. The reason for this stems from the unhealthy belief (when comparing) that if she is made up of similar things to me, then I should have the same opportunities or things as her, if not more. It hurts, for example when someone you went to school with is thriving in their life compared to you. I mean they had a similar opportunity for education you think, which compounds the hurt.
I feel there are three antidotes to comparison, to the “thief of joy”, as Roosevelt puts it.
Have sincere love for others and hope they will succeed.
Be grateful for what you have.
In humility, know that you don’t know everything.
I have been one of the few Australians interested in watching the television game show reboot, The Weakest Link. I think the reason why I like it is because I compare myself with the contestants. It makes me feel good about the random stuff I can prove I know by shouting at the TV screen. I snicker at the contestants when they don’t know answers to seemingly easy questions.
There’s an element where this extrapolates to the real world. If we can “one up” and prove that we are smarter than the next person, it makes us feel good. We have “won”. My mum used to say, “There’s always someone out there smarter than you”. While this had some negative outcomes for me, it sometimes did keep me grounded. If I thought I was the smartest in a cohort, it meant that the cohort did not include enough people.
Another interesting thought is that if you are the smartest in the room, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people will gravitate towards you. The pride that washes over a person can be a stench to others. Intelligence coupled with humility and love for other people however, is a healthy mixture of what helps someone feel more real (and enjoyable to be with).
Having said this, it doesn’t mean that we need to dismiss compliments or downplay the successes we have in our life. We ought to be proud of our achievements. If someone says a compliment, a “thank you” and acceptance of it can be nourishing to both souls.
Even as I type, I wonder, will people think that I am “up myself” or pious for writing these things? I do hope the answer is no. While some people retort that “people are just jealous”, if they don’t like you. It can be helpful to remember that not everyone will like you. There is no law that everyone must get along. By recognising the differences that we have between us, we can have more realistic expectations on others and ourselves. Difference is good. We should honour others and ourselves when we spot differences, whether they feel superior or inferior in nature. This will help guide us to becoming and invite belonging.
Elizabeth is a Mum to Grace, step-mum to Will, wife to Ricky. She is very changeable. Sometimes she'll identify herself as a social worker, other times as a writer or even as a Christian. She loves her town of Dubbo, New South Wales. Elizabeth studied a Bachelor of Social Work at Charles Sturt University.