Years ago, when I was being especially judgmental toward myself, my husband taught me a phrase:
“Don’t compare your insides, to other people’s outsides.” It was really simple, and yet at the time I didn’t entirely grasp its depth. However, I can’t begin to tell you how much this phrase has influenced me, my decisions and my beliefs as it has stayed with me for almost a decade. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me back up…
As children, for whatever reason (remember: we’re not playing the blame game here), we are taught to “compare” ourselves to what we see around us. So, from a very early age, we start learning the words: better, worse, enough, etc. We learn that everything has significance or value in our lives, and that some things are worth more than others. Unfortunately, we eventually apply this system to people, including ourselves. To be blunt, we learn how to judge. This isn’t something we’ve picked up overnight, mind you – it’s years and years of subliminal and sometimes not-so-subliminal messaging. Either way, in the end, by the time we reach pre-teen years, we are set up for disappointment, angst, frustration and fear. We are also set up for challenges, opportunities, and growth – but the other emotions tend to take over more often than not, as we learn to exert and test our independence little by little.
With that said, our teenage years are then spent fine-tuning this mode of living: comparing what we see to how we feel. For some reason, it’s ok that we do this with ourselves. So, we spend the better part of our childhood and teenage years thinking and feeling that we might not be “enough” and that we possibly aren’t “worthy” – when compared to everything, and everyone else, around us.
I can’t tell you how many times I looked at the more “popular” girls in high school and felt envy or worse: self-disgust. I wanted to look more like them, be more like them, and have what they had. And yet, I now know there were other people who looked at me and probably thought the same things I was thinking. I just didn’t realize it at the time. Why would I? All my energy was being spent thinking about everything that I wasn’t, not thinking about anything that I was. Add the value-system created by comparative thinking, and it’s a recipe for disaster: poor self-esteem and a roller coaster of emotions. It was difficult and challenging, and I think many of us may have experienced it that way.
Seeing the “grass as always greener” can wreak havoc on your mind. So, “it was the best of times and the worst of times.” Drama played a large role in my life, and why not? When you spend the better part of every day looking around you and judging others, and looking in the mirror and judging yourself – drama is a natural result. So – what happened next? I survived. In retrospect, it wasn’t that bad, even though at the time it was quite challenging. I have some of the best friends in the world – still today – and most all from high school. From there I went on to college, where I started (for the first time) to believe in myself, despite what I saw all around me. This time, however, it was based on others’ perception of me – namely, my boyfriends. I saw through their eyes what and who I was, not my own. Everything was still judgment based, but it was better. Next week, we’ll continue the story. For now, however:
Body – What do your outsides really look like? Stop looking at magazines of airbrushed models and actresses wearing $5,000 outfits – just look at yourself. Yes, we live in a society that values appearance, but what do YOU value? Health? Wellness? The ability to have free will and make your own decisions about what you wear? Eat? Do?
Mind – Our mind, if we allow it, will always play a ping-pong game with us. Too much stimulus, especially in light of the comparative value-system we’ve created, will always cause havoc in our judgments and self-esteem. Can you take a break from the things that cause you to sit in judgment of yourself? Can you even identify the causes?
Spirit – Here’s the best one: you already know who you are, and how beautiful/smart/kind/loving/etc. you are. It’s deep down, in your soul. Kept there for always and forever. If you can tap into this knowledge, think of how all the judgment of yourself and others will fall away. What can you do to access this wisdom? Is it enough for someone to simply remind you that you already have it?
In love and light,