” Let your head climb back down through your throat and into your body so it can see just how good you look when you’re not compared to anything.”Buddy Wakefield
When I reflect on my experiences with comparison and this idea of “being enough of something”, I find myself overcome with waves of guilt, and shame and deep sadness. The very term “being enough” is one that makes me cringe, and I can’t explain it. These are just words. At their very core, they are only letters placed together to be read as a sound. And yet, they feel so heavy on my tongue. I want to close my eyes when I hear it, and I want truly to believe that “I am enough” of anything. When I start to explore this, I really feel as though I’m carrying around a bag of bricks that each hold solid reasons of why I am exactly the opposite of enough of anything. I’m not disclosing this to you for any other reason that I am fairly certain you can relate in some way or another. As humans, or at least within this society, it is difficult to refrain comparing ourselves, what we have, all that we are and do to those around us.
I remember being a child and having this little white dragon stuffed animal. My sister had one too, but she didn’t play with hers as much. I remember comparing my stuffed toy to hers and being jealous and angry about how pretty hers was, fresh and new. Mine was becoming dingy, and losing it’s white shine. The neck was slightly bent out of place, worn over time by physical manifestations of my love. But hers was “better”. So, one day, when she wasn’t in her room, I snuck in with a black pen and I scribbled a small scribble on the neck of this dragon toy and placed it back in its home (Cheli, if you didn’t know this until this very moment, I am sorry, this a darker side of myself which I am working on).
For some reason, I couldn’t handle the idea of anyone having the same toy but in better condition than myself. I think somewhere in my small mind, the idea that my love could take something beautiful and make it ugly was planted, and it made me angry and hurt. It’s an idea that has been hard to shake. There is never justification, however, for trying to bring someone else down over my own self-comparison, even at the tender age of six. I think truly, this early experience is something that stays with me because it was a point in my life where I saw something in myself that was undesirable and I didn’t have the words to explore it any further. I didn’t want to have or be something that was “worse” than what other people had or were. Looking back, I wish I still had my dragon, because I have grown to be able to understand that we love things in our life, regardless of how they change over time, and that this change is sometimes due to the way that we love it. And that is okay. And we can celebrate it if it is healthy and promotes self-awareness. To be completely honest, this comparison technique is something I never grew out of. It has been nothing but toxic.
Comparison is not always bad. It can help develop knowledge and self-understanding. It can be a tool for measurement, or a way to learn from mistakes. When used as a tool, it actually can be quite helpful. It becomes dangerous when we apply it as the groundwork for how we operate. When we allow it space into our relationships with others, and with ourselves. It becomes dangerous when we incorporate it so often that we begin to feel resentment, bitterness and cynicism toward the world and those around us. Because using it in this way is when we begin to lose the things that make us authentically ourselves. It’s hard to know who to blame for where comparison became a tool to use against ourselves. So I won’t go there today. But I want to focus on the impact this can have. I do think it is crucial, that I stress how much comparison can make us feel as though we have to hide some part of who we are. It breeds “perfectionism” in beings that are made out of organic matter. If organic is said to be pure, doesn’t it mean that we already have reach a state of perfection?
Our body and brains know when we betray ourselves and so often, we feel betrayed when we feel we need to hide some detail or fact about ourselves. But we do this, often, to survive. We are afraid of being the “other” in the room. Society preaches “fitting in” and adapting ourselves into some cookie cutter mold. But squares do not fit inside of circles. And humans do not fit into cookie cutters. You know this. We all know this. But there is still this hidden suggestion that maybe comes from within that says ” if I don’t squish myself in that mold, I will never be enough”. If we compare cats and dogs, we would find many similarities, yes. But the sole things draw people into loving one or the other are the differences between them. But then to claim that one is better than the other is to claim facts based on opinions based on nothing but preference. And yet somehow, our society has let that be a driving forces in what is “acceptable” amongst human beings. But if we look at cats and dogs and acknowledge that none of them participate in comparison, I think it is fair to then point out just how happy they are being exactly who they are. We have much to learn from them.
So cut to present day. 27 year old Gina, still comparing, still resenting, still bitter and slightly cynical. Everytime I hear someone say the phrase “you are enough”, I instinctively roll my eyes. I find myself still angry that other people experience things I want for myself so much earlier than I ever will be able to. I become angry with myself when I realize I may never look or feel the way I want because I have mental illnesses and the potential for chronic conditions that may prevent me from doing so. I become frustrated with myself when I can not provide “enough” of the things that my loved ones may need or want from me. I fall into a dark place when I think about what my traumas may have done to my brain and the way I present myself to others. But to try to compare myself to other people, especially knowing what I do about myself and my past, is not fair. In fact, it is straight up cruel and it would, later then, be no surprise at all that I might feel what I feel about myself when I choose to be so unkind to me.
I think at this point, it is safe to say I have not developed this part of my self-love journey enough yet to claim to be any professional on the matter. But I will say that the impacts of comparison, and not believing myself to be enough of anything have been heavy and intense and really not conducive at all to learning techniques and lifestyles focused on self-love. Additionally, I think the word “enough” is misleading. I think it is a measurement that indicates the “bare minimum” and takes away the possibility of a point of satisfaction. Rather than focusing on what I “might lack”, I can focus on “areas of development”.
I would like to break it down. I think that language and the way we speak to ourselves can be a “make it or break it situation”. Language, however many letters come together to make sounds, is powerful.
Rather than being unkind to myself through comparison, I might state instead that I would like to improve on my time management skills. I would like to build upon my dedication to loving myself so much that I feel I actually deserve time to do more physically. To cast things aside that make me feel small and insignificant. This might mean removing myself from platforms that allow people to hide authenticity. This might mean staring at myself in a mirror for two hours until I am fine with the way my face has changed over the years. This might mean taking a minute to acknowledge that I have not been “made less than” or “corrupted” as a result of what my abusers have done to me. This might mean learning that hiding is not always safe. This might mean practicing my thoughts over and over again until I understand how to reframe them.
So with the help of my therapist, and those whom I love the most I have been trying to re frame this for myself. If we think of being “enough” as “abundance”, rather than “the bare minimum”, what do we really possess within ourselves? What qualities and features do I have an abundance of that I can pride myself in enough to forget to compare myself to others today? If you read my post from last week, I mention a bit about understanding what I need, and that right now, my brain is stating abundance. This word feels warm and refreshing, and comforting. These are qualities which I possess.
Other qualities and features that I possess in abundance: Kindness, empathy, determination, devotion, creativity, friendliness, diligence, understanding. I am a great cook because i have an abundance of knowledge around food. I have an abundance of authenticity. I have managed to stay true, through all of this, to myself, my passions and my goals in whichever way they may change. I always wake up. Not just in a state of being conscious but in a state of coming to my sense about how I want to be treated. I have an abundance of communication skills. My body is round and soft, and some day it will be fully open to receiving all the love it can also give. For now, I have an abundance of ways of being certain that others know I love them. I never stop trying. I have helped, for certain, at least five people. I have an abundance of knowledge and skills which I use every day. I have an abundance of respect for others, and an abundance of boundaries for those I do not respect. I have an abundance of trust. I have an abundance of acceptance from my loved ones. I have an abundance of forgiveness from my loved ones. I have an abundance of ways in which I know how to connect to other people. I have an abundance of opinions. I have an abundance of admiration. I have an abundance of stories and survival mechanisms. I have an abundance of perspective. I have an abundance of experiences. I have an abundance of lessons. I have an abundance of openness.
I am not saying to stop comparing yourself. I know it is simply, not possible and there may be some days where it is all you can do. That’s okay. I am asking you to take stock, right now of what exactly you know for sure that you have an abundance of within yourself. I think you may find it to be a much longer list than you anticipated. This was the hardest post for me to write yet. This is a topic that I am struggling with every day. But I cannot ask you to do it, without having done it myself.
Take stock of what you possess in abundance. What qualities are they? What can you do right now, tomorrow, daily etc. to ensure that you will try to refrain from comparing who you are to some one who is a completely different being than yourself? Why is this important to you? How can you reframe the language you use for yourself to fit a life that allows you to stop hiding? How will you build awareness around your personal stuffed dragons? What can you do to appreciate what you have to give others and yourself? How will you account for your own personal journey and how it has contributed to who and why are you the way you are? How can you keep this in mind when you start to compare? How do you ensure you are not trying to squish yourself into molds that are not made for you? What can you do to assure yourself that all of this abundance, all of what you possess really is enough. And it is. And you are. But you have to believe it.