“You shouldn´t compare yourself to others!”, people might tell you. Of course, without an explanation this is about as good advice as “Just be yourself!” or “Just be more confident!”.
Most likely it will not help at all. So, why shouldn’t we compare ourselves to others?
One reason is that there is always someone - or more likely, a bunch of folks – better than you. If you focus your mind to compare your life to other people´s lives you will always find someone new above you. And your self-esteem will take a beating. If you get a nicer car to feel better compared to Bill Patterson next door and you´ll feel satisfied for a while. The next day, on you way to work, you notice that the guy who´s always out walking his poodle at weekends has an even sweeter ride than you.
And if you buy a better car than him six months later then you will soon notice that the Amberson kid around the corner has made millions via some internet-contraption and now drives a Koenigsegg to school. One of the big reasons we compare our lives is to get approval. And in general I think that wanting approval from others is a big obstacle in both personal growth and living a happy life. We may want the neighbours, friends etc. to think/say: “Did you see that new car/swimming-pool/shoes? It is the coolest on the block. S/he´s is moving up in the world”.
A problem with comparing yourself to others and wanting approval from them is that you let others control how you feel in life. You feel bad when you are saving for the new car. You feel great when you finally have gotten enough money to drive it home. And then you feel bad again when you see that someone else has an even finer automobile. It´s a bit like being puppet and having other people pulling the strings. They limit you movements and your life. You might have some movement but the strings controls which way you are going.
How to gain that inner freedom
The thing about lessening your need for approval is that you have give up both positive and negative approval. They are connected because when if you no longer crave positive cheers and approval from people then you will no longer have fears of not getting that approval either. When you really start to give it up – which might have to be done over time and with patience as your ego probably will want to snap back to seeking that sweet, sweet approval - you start to realise that neither of them are that important. They are really only as important as you decide they are. You are what you think you are and the world is what you think it is.
Another way to free yourself is to put in some massive, drastic action. Like, instead of driving your car, starting to ride a bicycle to work. This could catapult you right into disapproval and let you move outside your comfort zone quickly. When you first move out of your comfort zone it is uncomfortable. But after a while you get used to it and the discomfort starts to dissipate. If you try this method you may discover that people don´t care as much as you feared - maybe they are busy worrying about their own problems and what others may think of them. Or you can find that you´ve had a positive effect on others. Next week maybe you are not the only one riding a bicycle to work.
A third way is one I´ve discovered recently though Eckhart Tolle´s dvd “The Flowering of Human Consciousness”. It´s a bit counter-intuitive but bear with me. Whenever you feel some feeling you don´t want to feel, like neediness for approval from someone then don´t struggle with this feeling. Don´t try and keep it out. Then it will just be further entangled in your mind and possibly even strengthened.
Instead, accept the feeling. Say yes to it. Surrender and let it in.
Observe the feeling in your mind and body without judging it. If you just let it in and observe it for maybe a minute or two something wonderful happens. The feeling just vanishes. Yeah, I know, it sounds weird but give it a try. The funny thing is when you no longer need approval from others, when you stop comparing yourself to others you will have a greater inner freedom to do what you want. You will notice positive opportunities in your life that wasn´t there before. And, as usual, don´t feel too bad or beat yourself up if you snap back to wanting approval. Just get back on track the next day, keep it up and gradually you will change.
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