Antonia Beamish – Comparing ourselves with others is nothing new, it’s human nature. Yet, there is another side to comparison that we’re less aware of. One which is pulling us further away from the ability to truly accept and express our emotions and, instead, fueling a trend of default gratitude, pulling us further away from the joy of authentic appreciation.
The Art of Comparison
We live in a world which is driven by comparison and competition. It’s how our society thrives. As a result of our conditioning to ‘be the best’ we only share the highlights of our lives, never showing the ugliness. The image we present to the world is filtered, polished and perfected, hiding any insecurity, imperfection and emotional vulnerability.
We tend to compare ourselves with our peers, more than with anyone else. We feel safe with the pack. It’s uncomfortable standing out, so we use comparison as a tool to monitor our social standing. We constantly want to know what everyone else is up to, using that information as a marker to measure our success and alignment with society.
We desperately want to keep up with a race that has no finish line. Why do we do this to ourselves? Blame the programming. From our childhood we were conditioned to be the best, win the race, be the captain, achieve, achieve, achieve. No one was rewarded for losing.
On a most basic level, comparison is complete denial of living in the present moment. When we slip into a state of comparison, we want to be anywhere but where we are, who we are, in our bodies and in the lives we’re living.
Comparison is the thief of joy. It pulls us out of the beautiful life we are living, tearing us away from the perfection of the present moment and slams us into the glass through which we stare out at the world thinking we should be better than we are. It’s in these moments that we forget that happiness is an inside job. Contentment is an inside job. Nothing external can ever fix the self-esteem wounds within.
The Dark side of Comparison
We’re all aware of the dangers of comparing our lives with others yet there is also another side of comparison which we’re less conscious of. While we easily recognize how we compare ourselves to the lives which, in some shape or form, we yearn to attain, we are less aware of how we can also compare ourselves to those the lives which, on the deepest level, we fear attaining.
We witness those who suffer and compare our lives to theirs which has a twofold response within us. Firstly, we feel shame. We feel unworthy and undeserving of complaint when we are aware that there are others whose suffering is far greater than ours. We may even feel guilty for our lifestyles, thinking we are ‘wrong’ and ‘bad’ for not appreciating them on a constant basis.
While it’s human nature to try and stop ourselves from expressing any kind of negativity it’s necessary to acknowledge our own pain and suffering. We can be aware of the suffering in the world and still be allowed to feel our own. Repressing our own emotions due to guilt or shame drives them deeper into the body where they fester until we have no choice but to confront them.
Feeling unable to express emotions because we feel guilty that others are suffering more isn’t showing compassion to ourselves. When we gloss over our own difficulties and sugar-coat our own feelings with a layer of positivity, it only serves to suppress and invalidate our true feelings even further.
Secondly, through this action we not only negate the validity of our feelings but we also force ourselves into an unnatural and contrived place of gratitude. What I call a ‘default gratitude’ that is forced out of us from a place of guilt and shame.
Gratitude is an incredibly powerful practice but I feel the concept has been hijacked in our happy-go-lucky society. We are being shamed into gratitude rather than letting the feeling spontaneously arrive within us. Gratitude and positivity both have a place in our world but, when we force them, we lose the potentiality of each.
Gratitude has become a default check box rather than an organically grown emotive state. We compare our lives to others, seeing the suffering, and feel we ‘should be grateful’ for what we have rather than feeling gratitude as a naturally occurring phenomenon.
There is a vast difference between authentic gratitude and default gratitude. Default gratitude comes from a closed heart, hardened with doubt, negativity and fear. Heavy with feelings of guilt and shame for not acknowledging our abundance when others suffer so terribly. Superficial platitudes of gratitude in this vibration can’t unfurl the heart. There is deeper work to be done to step away from comparison before you can let the heart open.
When we are tightly curled in on ourselves, protecting and shielding the physical and emotional body, real gratitude is much harder to feel and celebrate.
Authentic gratitude rises spontaneously when we feel overwhelmed with joy for a moment in time. It is pure and authentic as we fall into a place of love for a moment in time. This is the real stuff.
“It is a thing of heart-felt, tangible beauty. It is organic and spontaneous. It is genuine and it has integrity. We know when we are grateful because we feel it in our very beings. Gratitude is a human energy that arises spontaneously in response to states of well being.” – Murray Hill
Gratitude is a vibration of pure joy as we witness beauty in a moment. It is born out of a state of awareness. When we’re present we’re not looking behind us lamenting the past, neither are we worrying about future fears, we are here with our eyes wide open to all the wonders of this moment in time. It’s in this place that we can truly feel, appreciate and love.
I feel gratitude in moments of time; beautiful sunsets, a sleeping dog, rainfall, a steaming cup of tea, flickering candlelight, a bowl of cherries, birds in the garden, slipping into bed at the end of the day. Moments like these bring gratitude streaming to the surface.
If you’re finding yourself struggling with feeling gratitude on an authentic level, recognise where you might be sugar-coating your negative emotions with false positivity. Open yourself up to feeling all your emotions, no matter how negative they might seem. It’s from this place of honesty and emotional validation that you can begin to truly see those things to truly be grateful for.
Then start becoming more present. Open your eyes to the beauty around you. Don’t force it where you can’t feel it and don’t feel the need to see the shine in everything. Drop the lists, check boxes and gratitude journals. Practice heart-opening yoga and meditation so you can learn to be in the moment and gratitude will come to you in the most natural and nourishing way.
SF Source Wake Up World Feb 2021