How often in conversations do you say 'If I were _____ I would_____'. In other words you see what another person is doing and either believe you would do differently or want to do the same. It is easy to sit on the sidelines and make the comments.
On one level these 'If I were…' types of comparisons are a combination of imagination, ego, wishful thinking, judgment, separation and empathy. On another level these statements are detachments from our own lives and our own existence. We jump quickly into another’s situation and distance ourselves from our own.
Yet overall the idea of comparing ourselves to another person is always going to be limiting. Why? Because when we look outside of our self for the benchmark we immediately devalue and dismiss the greatness in our own self. What I would suggest instead is that we start with our self. Then look to others for guidance, input, wisdom, support and insight as we feel it is appropriate.
When we compare ourselves there are also a couple of things going on. When we see another person as better than we lower our self in our own eyes and thus the actions we take from this place are less confident, assured and powerful. When we see another person as less than our self then we inflate our self in our own eyes and the actions taken from this place are arrogant, patronising, condescending. Both places of inequality are filled with judgement.
Equal but different
So instead of comparing ourselves to others why not see each other as equal but simply different. By different I mean more than what is on the outside. I am talking about the inside. Values, beliefs, stories, culture, experience. We are going to differ are we not? But this does not make one of us wrong and the other right. Ultimately there is a common ground. Ultimately there is also likely a higher ground. Wouldn’t it be nice though if we could come together in both places whilst still respecting differences.
We can start by looking for the shared human experience. All you have to do is go to the basics of living. In fact quite a few good documentaries have done this with both visual and story across cultures. We see that in all countries and cultures we have physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. The whole gamut of possible shared experiences exists. Only the way you prepare and eat your meal may be entirely different than the person across the globe. Babies are born. We go to work. We live and die. The cycle of life is the same where you go just different in expression.
Why am I raising these thoughts?
Well I notice sometimes how easy it is to see someone else’s life and want to step into it or avoid it entirely. We see a successful business person, movie star or rich person. We say ‘oh if I had that I would…’ Or perhaps we see someone being made an example of in a news story and we say ‘oh I am so glad that’s not me’.
We look at the image portrayed and we judge. Right away it is so easy to judge. But then what happens when we go back to the shared human factors? That man or woman on the screen is in fact more like us than not. They also may have values or beliefs different than us but they are on the same journey trying to live a rewarding and meaningful life and ultimately be happy. They are on their own learning curve.
It's about you
So instead of comparing to others what if you got up every morning and said: “If I were me I would ____” Then bring it into the present and say “Because I am me I am_____” or “Because I am me I can_____” You pick the statement that works for you. You fill in the blank.
Then when you catch yourself comparing you can simply change the focus of the question.
Empathy, compassion and appreciation
This focus on you does not dismiss nor negate the importance of compassion, empathy for others. Nor does it disregard our appreciation and recognition of achievement, contribution and talent in others. I am simply realigning the place from which you see these situations as one of equality in human terms, not lesser or greater than.
So when you see someone who has something that you wish you had think about what you already have. Then also acknowledge the example of the other and appreciate it. When you see someone who is in a situation you do not want to experience. Then again acknowledge the reminder and appreciate it.
Then say to yourself so now what am I going to think, feel or do about this situation?