One of my favorite times in the day is when the Osho Zen Tarot App pops up on my phone with a message for the day. I always find I receive the perfect card; the wisdom and simplicity that Osho brings helps me to step into the day with a sense of openness, playfulness and curiosity. When today’s card arrived it read, “Comparison”. I was not surprised as this is a topic I have been thinking about a lot lately. The tendency to compare and contrast oneself to others is one that I learned at a pretty young age. I am sure many folks can relate to that.
For me, this pattern is one I have worked on transforming on and off over the years. Sometimes it seems I am more centered in myself and at other times, this pattern emerges and I fall back into comparing out. When I am open, centered and grounded, I tend to be more accepting of who I am and how life is presenting itself to me. When I am stressed, vulnerable or triggered, I tend to compare myself to others and evaluate my life circumstances based on a familial, societal and/or cultural construct that most often I do not resonate with as my personal truth.
I am amazed at how deep this pattern goes even with many years of personal and spiritual work. It just runs so very deep. I learned to compare as a child from family members; it didn’t take long for that to carry into school, friendships and later, work. I am aware this dynamic was somewhat exaggerated for me by the impact of my mother’s mental illness and her own off the charts patterns of comparison interwoven with paranoia. However over the years, I have observed this pattern in many of my clients, friends and acquaintances. It also seems to be pervasive in American culture – everyone has heard the term, “Keeping Up With The Jones’s”. However it may manifest, whether more personally or collectively, this tendency can really keep us stuck or unable to make desired changes in life as we are not moving from a place of center or from our authentic, heartfelt desires but from something outside of ourselves.
A related aspect of this that emerges for me is a pattern of perfectionism. I find I can hold myself to such high standards that they are not really humanly possible. So often, instead of honoring who I am and what I am doing, I am looking at what’s missing and comparing myself to an idea that does not exist and does not serve. In fact, it is this pattern which keeps me the most stuck as I may not even begin to move when I feel that expectations are so high they are unattainable. It seems kind of ironic because although perfectionism can lend some benefit to the process of success, achievement and fulfilling our potential, it can also hinder our growth as much as it can help it. Perhaps there is some balanced level of perfectionism out there, but I haven’t found it yet. I know this varies from situation to situation and person to person, but my sense is that it can be a huge block to living one’s potential.
I so loved Osho’s message on this topic today, here it is:
“Who ever told you that the bamboo is more beautiful than the oak, or the oak more valuable than the bamboo? Do you think the oak wishes it had a hollow trunk like this bamboo? Does the bamboo feel jealous of the oak because it is bigger and its leaves change color in the fall? The very idea of the two trees comparing themselves to each other seems ridiculous, but we humans seem to find this habit very hard to break. Let’s face it, there is always going to be somebody who is more beautiful, more talented, stronger, more intelligent, or apparently happier than you are. And conversely, there will always be those who are less than you in all these ways. The way to find out who you are is not by comparing yourself with others, but by looking to see whether you are fulfilling your own potential in the best way you know how.” – Osho
It feels like turning Osho’s conclusion into a question is a great reflective practice: “Am I fulfilling my own potential in the best way I know how?” Even as I pose that question, I can feel many ways to answer it. What comes to mind right away is to approach this question and this subject with gentleness and compassion for self. Even when we enter into self-exploration and spiritual practice, if we do so with a critical or judgmental voice, we have the power to halt our true potential, rather than cultivate it. Being open, loving and kind to ourselves is a key to shifting this pattern and many others as well.
I have found Metta (loving-kindness) meditation practice to be incredibly beneficial for this reason. One, it helps to create a foundation of loving-kindness and compassion for oneself; and two, as we extend loving-kindness out to others and the world, our sense of oneness and connection really expands. As our awareness develops that we are all really the same, the pattern of comparison is virtually nullified. That is one of many reasons why I continue to work with Metta practice on an ongoing basis and share it with others as a foundational spiritual practice and tool for transformation and healing.
In my personal work and work with clients, I have also found some Bach Flower remedies that can really help to address patterns of comparison and perfectionism. Here are a few that may be applicable. I have included some basic indicators as well as Dr. Bach’s original descriptions:
Larch – Lack of Self-Confidence, Not Feeling Good Enough or Capable Enough, Tending To Compare Oneself To Others
“For those who do not consider themselves as good or capable as those around them, who expect failure, who feel that they will never be a success, and so do not venture or make a strong enough attempt to succeed.” – Dr. Bach, Heal Thyself
Rock Water – Rigidity, Self-Denial, Perfectionism, High Standards & Expectations
Those who are very strict in their way of living; they deny themselves many of the joys and pleasures of life because they
consider it might interfere with their work. They are hard masters to themselves. They wish to be well and strong and active, and will do anything which they believe will keep them so. They hope to be examples which will appeal to others who may then follow their ideas and be better as a result.” – Dr. Bach, Heal Thyself
Pine – Self-Critical, Never Satisfied With One’s Own Efforts or Results, Tendency To Be Harsh With Oneself
“For those who blame themselves. Even when successful they think that they could have done better, and are never content with
their efforts or the results. They are hard-working and suffer much from the faults they attach to themselves. Sometimes if there is any mistake it is due to another, but they will claim responsibility even for that.” – Dr. Bach, Heal Thyself
It felt fitting to share some of Dr. Bach’s words today as I was just notified that I have achieved status as a BFRP, Bach Flower Registered Practitioner, with the Bach Centre in the UK. I have worked with Bach Flower Remedies for over 15 years and credit a major part of my personal healing process and spiritual growth to the support of the remedies and Dr. Bach’s philosophy of Unity and Harmony. The remedies are an integral part of my integrative holistic practice, along with shamanic healing and zero balancing, as they help to support change and transition on an emotional and energetic level.
I share this because I am celebrating today and in my recent explorations of comparison and perfectionism, I have concluded that the best way to diffuse our inner critic is to cultivate our inner cheerleader. This is something I am working on and plan to share more about in future posts.
I’d like to invite everyone to take some time to explore the question:
“Am I fulfilling my own potential in the best way I know how?” And, hopefully, to do so with the utmost loving-kindness, gentleness and compassion possible. Find some ways to cultivate those energies and qualities that bring you more into your center. Allow yourself to celebrate who you are and what is arising in your life as divine perfection. Pick up those pompoms, bullhorns, drums or rattles and say, “Three or three hundred or even three thousand CHEERS FOR ME!”
Aho Mitakye Oaysin! All my relations. I honor you in this circle of life today.
P.S. If Captain Vegetable can do it, so can you!…….
Are you looking for a speaker, radio show guest, or someone to write a guest post on your blog? I’d love to explore with you! Feel free to contact me through my website, www.bethterrence.com.