You’ve heard the quote, “Comparison Is the Thief of Joy” – Theodore Roosevelt. He was onto something. Comparison leads to negative judgment of self or others. It’s a criminal looking to steal your true self-worth. Despite the guaranteed negative impact of comparison, it’s really easy to get sucked into the comparison game! It’s natural to compare because we constantly take in information and download meaning about the world around us. However, that part of your mind can also lead us to negative self-evaluation and judgment. Your eating disorder loves comparison. Comparison gives a false sense of self-worth when you get the favorable judgment in the comparison. When you’re on the losing end of comparison, ED tells you you’re worthless and it’s a threat to recovery. With almost 12 years of full-recovery under my belt, let me share some veteran recovery tips that help ward off comparison.
- Mindfulness – Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment without judgment. If you can pause and catch yourself in the automatic negative thoughts of comparison you have the power to mindfully step back and just notice them without attaching meaning to them. Mindfully step back and just breathe. Mindfully focus on your breath instead of going down the rabbit hole of comparison. It’s like you’re gathering information and getting curious about how often you automatically compare. Just notice, “Huh, I’m comparing.” No judgment. No criticism. Just breathe it out.
- Reject comparing thoughts – You have to option to reject the comparison thoughts. Catch them and ditch them. Notice the thoughts that say you’re better than or less than someone else and say “STOP.” Reject them as they arise. You can reject the perfectionistic demanding thoughts that plague you. They are just thoughts, not facts or truths. See the comparison thoughts and don’t attach to them. Perhaps you can replace the comparison thoughts with a mantra. My personal mantra is, “Peace and presence in all circumstances.” Use it!
- Self-Compassion – The comparing mind is constantly looking for external proof that you’re worthy (or unworthy). Have some compassion for yourself and your suffering. ED will give you no empathy or compassion. You can decide to step up as a loving and nurturing ally for yourself. ED will never do that. Comparison won’t do that. You can be to compassionate ally you need. When you catch yourself comparing, offer yourself compassion. “It’s okay girlfriend, your feelings and experience is valid. I got your back. I stand with you. I know your suffering is real.”
- It’s not fair to compare – Comparison is inherently problematic. We take one snapshot of someone’s life, a brief exterior evaluation, and we compare it to our entire internal experience and worth as a person. It’s not fair nor is it rational! No one is perfect. When we compare we are not looking at all the facts or a persons inner experience. In fact, even if the comparison is arguably accurate (like, they have newer shoes than yours), it’s not fair to say that actually means anything about you. It’s only your judgment or perception that makes new shoes mean something about you. People are much more complex and multifaceted than simple comparisons.
- Gratitude – My favorite skills right here ya’ll. Gratitude will snap you out of the negative attitude of comparison. When you catch yourself comparing, tap into gratitude instead. Name 12 things for which you are grateful. Identify what you value and what is working for you instead of what is lacking. this will shift your mindset immediately.
- Switch comparison to kindness – Someone else’s success or achievements do not detract from you! Instead of focusing inward, use your comparison as a reminder to be kind to the person! Share a compliment, give them mad props, congratulate them, share support, be happy for them! This will in turn help you feel good because your focus is positive and outward.
Don’t let comparison rob your happiness and recovery. Stop it dead in in tracks and steal your joy right back.
Tiffany Roe, MA, CMHC