The comparison trap

I have taken the StrengthsFinders quiz three times in the past ten years and Competitive is always in my top five. Along with Discipline and Determination, being competitive is something that seems hard-wired into my being. This comes in handy when trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon, improve my Fran time, or win a sales contest. Being competitive with myself is internal and generally from a place of abundance rather than scarcity. It is less of a strength when trying to get over infidelity committed with someone I knew. My logical brain knows that his cheating was not about me versus her. My logical brain knows this. My emotional brain is still constantly tallying up the difference and trying to figure out where I fell short. 

A quick tally to finally get it out of my brain: I have zero tattoos, no piercings aside from a single ear piercing I've had since I was 7, and I wear very little make-up. The woman with whom my husband cheated is the polar opposite of that picture. My logical brain knows none of this matters. My emotional brain is at a loss for words and understanding. My emotional brain wants to tear her down in order to lift myself up. My logical brain knows that this is toxic and futile. I am not at risk of changing everything about myself in response - I'm not going to dye my hair, get a tattoo, or schedule plastic surgery. And I take some solace in the fact that, finally, at thirty, I feel at least confident enough in who I am to not even entertain the idea of changing my physical state to cope with feelings of inadequacy. 

So it's an entirely mental game of changing the channel when the thoughts pop up. When my husband seems distracted on his phone and a voice in my head says, "it's happening again. Wonder who caught his attention this time". This is in addition to the run-of-the-mill, everyday comparison thoughts triggered by social media, unrealistic TV shows (have you seen the old Will & Grace episode where Grace is freaking out about her "tiny" NYC bathroom at Will's apartment? This is supposed to be a Manhattan apartment; you could easily fit 5 of my bathrooms in there. I spent the evening questioning why I'm satisfied with my one teeny bathroom), and societal norms that tell me everything that I should be and what I should have by now. 

I don't think it's just me (and please tell me if it is so I can bring it up more proactively in therapy) who is constantly comparing the images I see to my reality and asking myself, "do I need that?", "do I want that?", and "is there something wrong with me if I don't?". It's taken me years to figure out what I actually want, what I believe my purpose and passions in life to be, and to be ok with letting go of the expectations and perceived judgement of others. Below are lists of things I care about and things I simply do not - some are serious and some are funny because one thing I do care an awful lot about is not taking it all so damn seriously. 


  1. I don’t know what you mean by traveling exotic places. You get to visit a wondrous new place, eat delicious cuisine, meet people with charming accents, and see what life is like for people in a different culture and environment by traveling.

  2. That's what is so great about letting go of comparisons - you love and value traveling, I do not, and that's ok!


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