Do you think it’s possible change your thinking? To reprogram thought patterns you’ve had as long as you can remember?
I do this thing. Not even a unique thing. We all do it, but I do it pretty much constantly and increasingly to my own detriment. I’m constantly comparing. Some of us compare ourselves to others in terms of our careers, how much money we make, how popular we may be or how well we play a sport or an instrument. It’s a totally human behaviour and with each behaviour there comes a possibility that it can go a little off the rails. We can become obsessive about it. We can develop maladaptive behaviours to help us cope with out it makes us feel.
I’m out of whack right now because I can’t walk down the street without thoughts like the following going through my head. “She’s thinner than I am. I’m so gross.” or “She’s shorter than I am. I bet she doesn’t feel like a hulking giant in every crowd.” Pick a feature and I do this. Compare and cut down. Over and over. Sometimes it’s just going in the background, but other times, it’s a soul crushing crushing monologue. I’ve been doing this since my age matched my shoe size.
The part that goes unsaid. The most insidious and hateful thought, that awful nugget of so-called truth, is that I’m trying to make myself believe that the people I’m comparing myself to deserve love, success, joy and all the other good things in life – and I don’t.
It’s really fucked up when you think about it. First off, how you look does not determine if deserve love. If anyone tried to suggest this to me, if anyone tried to tell me that they think that they don’t deserve love because of how they look, they’d get one of my rather well known and effective talkings-to. Yet in my head, my inner critic is like “Yup. That’s how it works. You’re X, X and X. Everyone else is Y. You suck.” Thanks inner critic. Thanks a bunch.
Next, it’s completely unfair to the people who actually love me. It’s offensive to suggest that their friendship and affection is really only based on bone structure. Yet I do that over and over, knowing that it’s wrong.
There are people who do this very same thing for other facets of life. “I’ll never be as smart as her. Why bother trying”, “I can’t speak as eloquently as he does. No one will care about what I have to say”,”Wow, they really have it all together. Why can’t I be like them?” We are so good at finding ways for us to make ourselves feel inadequate. In fact, I manage to give myself an additional kick in the ass because I’m crazy about something so superficial. Bravo!
What am I going to do about this? Cause it’s just not okay anymore. I’m, frankly, too old for this shit. So I’m going to reprogram my brain (with supervision from my therapist, of course). I’m going to shift my inner monolog from comparison to observation. It would be absurd to think that I’ll stop seeing people. I’m observant. I notice details. I remember so many of them. I can’t change that. But what I can change is how I think about it.
This is what I’ve started to try. Every person I see, I’m trying to notice something nice about them –”Nice hair.” “Great shoes” “Lovely smile.” – and the thought stops there. Cut. End scene. That’s it. No reflection on what that means for me. Because in reality, how other people look has no bearing on my self worth. None whatsoever.
Here’s hoping it works. At the very least I’ll be thinking nice thoughts about everyone.