COMPARE YOURSELF TO NO ONE. EVER.
We are not meant to have the same life experiences as the next person. We are not meant to hold ourselves up to societally driven standards. In comparing ourselves to others, we are willingly buying into and “purchasing” an unattainable emotional object for which we pay with endless self-disapproval, self-nonacceptance, and self-disregard. And what’s even worse is that we market these ideals to one another, secretly shaming ourselves for not having what we think or believe we are meant to have, to be, to accomplish. In short, we must stop trying to fit ourselves into someone elses’ box.
What if we were to accept that everyone is uniquely on the correct path, being and becoming exactly who they are meant to be and become? What if?
I work with so many teenagers and young adults and it always stops me dead in my tracks when a young woman compares herself professionally to a colleague who makes a bigger salary, or when a young man compares himself to someone else’s perceived success at the same age.
THE COMPARISON VIRUS
The “comparison virus” is so deeply ingrained in so many young women who express insecurity about their appearance. Physical comparison is not unique to the female gender, but it is certainly more readily available in my view of the world. I am keenly aware of and have been victim to society’s expectations of the feminine “ideal”. I had layers and layers of it to overcome and heal within myself. More often than I could possibly count, I have encountered young women who expresses insecurity about their looks, their abilities, their skin color, their sex appeal, their confidence… I could continue this list forever, but you get the point.
And this is certainly not unique to Western society. While I was working in Kenya, white faces appeared on half of the billboards I saw (1% of Kenya’s population is European/white). Skin bleaching products are marketed as prolifically as the hunger-combating white bread advertised everywhere I went. When I began working with more people in Pakistan, I was invited to join a Pakistani female entrepreneurs group, the cover photo for which includes only a single white, blonde haired woman.
The unattainable “ideals” to which we are trained to compare ourselves are marketed to us constantly, everywhere. Those ideals are usually white, sis-gendered, wealthy, thin, and able-bodied. Societies seem to magically culturally appropriate whatever can be further marketed to us as the unattainable ideal. And through some kind of imbalanced groupthink, these newly trending ideals are marketed as the new “cool”/open-minded/culturally aware/successful/awake/woke version of who we should be. Who I should be. Who you should be.
And what’s more, the instant you hear about it, you should question yourself as to why you hadn’t heard about it before. Didn’t you know? Why didn’t you know? Will you admit to just finding out?
This is how the cycle continues. There is another unattainable award for being “first on scene” with a trend.
THERE IS NO AWARD FOR BEING FIRST ON SCENE WITH A TREND
What is the not so ironic truth about all of this?
The “ideal” marketed by society and labeled as “who you should be” is not just esoteric, it is completely valueless. Why? Because, once you obtain one ideal, you are already looking for the next one because the one you have just obtained means nothing. Surprise! None of this will ever make you feel good about yourself.
We are taught that there are individuals who embody ideals other than those we ourselves uniquely possess. It is the new version of “keeping up with the Joneses” but it is far more insidious and destructive to everyone’s sense of self, intrinsic value and self-confidence.
HOW DOES THIS AFFECT OUR YOUTH? OUR FUTURE?
So here I am, writing an article about the need to teach our young people to compare themselves to no one and so far I have only talked about the mass produced and readily available ideal – those intangible “who I should be” products marketed by and to and for the collective consciousness via trends and groupthink. It is like an invisible virus, infecting an entire global population of people who believe they should be someone other than who they are. But what about young people? How is this impacting them and our collective future?
Question: What does a society become if its’ citizens do not value themselves and spend their lives trying to become something other than who they are?
As long as we adults are living in and perpetuating this collective mental/emotional/energetic self abusive consciousness imbalance, we are teaching our young people to seek outside of themselves to become something they are not.
EMBODYING YOUR WISDOM
The beautiful thing about life – and the suffering and loss it brings – is the wisdom to finally, eventually, and hopefully before it’s too late, settle fully into your own unique expression of YOU.
Whatever you have spent years or decades rejecting about yourself is precisely the thing you are meant to settle into and comfortably, lovingly embrace. It is from the space of true self-love and self-acceptance that you will embody and share with the world and our precious young people the greatest secret of all:
Comparing yourself to anything and anyone other than your unique self is a terrible waste of time, energy, health and most preciously, self-love.
Rather than giving you a list of traits to embody or lessons to teach other people, you must look deep inside yourself and develop your own list. If you scratch beneath the surface, there are no talking points to teach this. There is only teaching by doing. We can only model the behavior and confidence we wish for our young people to have with in themselves.
From my own journey, I have learned that loving myself completely and dropping every comparison is the only true path to self acceptance, self-love, and a joyful life. I can only encourage you and open your mind to the ways that you do not love, accept, or appreciate yourself completely and invite you to step into that fully and live your life as a living, breathing, walking teacher for young people.
WE TEACH BY DOING. BY BEING.
It is from this place of loving everything about yourself – and especially anything you reject – that you will be able to teach the young people with whom you cross paths how to do the same. Make your life a radical teaching moment by never comparing yourself to anything. No achievement, no bank account, no cultural ideal, no body shape of anyone else ever, ever, ever. When you encounter a young person who is experiencing their own self-doubt and is seeking someone outside of themselves to emulate, begin by giving them positive feedback. Share an honest story about how you overcame your own lack of self-love and learned how to stop comparing yourself to someone else’s ideal.
Anytime you compare yourself to anyone, you are trying to fit yourself into a box you don’t belong in that someone else is undoubtedly trying to get out of. Once you can be yourself without external validation, you will find true peace. Recycle that box and move along.
About the Author:
Amy L. Carrier is an advocate for 21st century skills readiness, true education reform that puts children first and the “community as a classroom” model in education. She has been building new solutions in education since 2000. She is known for empowering teens to become entrepreneurs teaching them how to create their own unique solutions to problems in their communities. Amy has been interviewed on CNN about teaching business and entrepreneurship in schools.