Dichotomies (5 of 6)

Last week’s newsletter was for Lanny. This week, we’re back to our regularly scheduled programming: Me talking to me. This next dichotomy is a doozy for me personally. This one was a challenge for me because I couldn’t find a way to explain the top of the spectrum. I had a one-on-one with my friend Zoë, who came to the rescue with some great insights and wisdom. (Which is why this is a day late, too.)

Dichotomy 5 of 6: Comparison vs. Acceptance  

The bottom of the spectrum, the part pushing us down is Comparison, which comes in two forms:

  1. Putting ourselves below people. The way I feel when I look at the Chrisman Studios website.
  2. Putting ourselves above others. Think about those deep inner feelings we never outwardly admit. Like how I secretly like getting better photos than Lanny. Or when I see a parent losing their shit on their kid, it can make me feel a bit smug about my perceived skills, which is anything but patient. Or when we are happy we feel our work is ‘better’ than our competitions… If only momentarily.

In the first case, we’re pushing ourselves below people, judging ourselves as not worthy or not good enough. In the second example, we’re pushing people below us, if only to provide us some momentary comfort or perceived competence.

The opposing factors are not comfortable to admit out loud for all to hear (in a weekly newsletter, for example!), but they exist in all of us. Yup, myself included. Of course myself included, given the nature of this newsletter. Most of us don’t speak them out loud, but they are there. Don’t worry, I am not asking you to spill the beans on your own personal experience to the entire world, but if you would like to, I wouldn’t be opposed. Hell, it might make me feel better about myself. We face these demons together.

The person I suffer the most with both areas of comparison is Lanny. Surprise, surprise! The little demon on my shoulder vacillates between him being better than me to being worse than me faster than our camera’s fastest shutter speed. (1/32,000, for the nerds out there.) My ego works overtime to make me feel ‘better than’ and ‘worse than,’ fluctuating between the two all day, every day.

That is until I catch myself and flip the storyline. But what can pull us up is Acceptance. Yes, I know it’s all a bit zen. This is about as zen as I get. Thousands of years of practicing the art of staying present has proven that Buddhists are onto something here. Here are some super easy (but totally not easy) ways to flip those inner comparison narratives:    

Awareness: We often fall into the comparison trap without even realizing. Our conditioning has only deepened the need to compare ourselves for what we think is self-preservation. But, it’s not. Self-preservation is when we can look at ourselves honestly and see exactly how far we have come and what makes us unique. Being aware of the comparison game in your head and being proud of exactly where you are at in this journey will release the comparison monsters.

Focusing on Your Strengths: Looking at how amazing we think life is for others is the classic dichotomy of the grass being greener. Spoiler alert: It never actually is. The way out of this is to identify your own strengths and give yourself an ample pat on the back. You are actually exactly where you need to be at this moment on your greatest journey. Your neighbour’s lawns are not greener, just like the Chrisman’s work is not better or worse than ours.  

Leaning into Imperfection: I’m unabashed about my love of a good Brené Brown quote, because she really has explained to a generation how essential it is to courageously lean into discomfort. “Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line,” she writes. That means facing ourselves, one comparison at a time.

Empathy: Putting yourself in the shoes of others goes a long way in quelling your own comparisons. Empathy is not sympathy. It’s finding a way in which we have experienced the same or similar adversity and giving to others the kind of knowing compassion we needed in those moments. This is a big one and something we all must continually work towards achieving. Having empathy for those who have had the wind knocked out of them will stop the ‘better than’ comparisons from invading your inner dialogues.

The very nature of art has nothing to do with being ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than anyone else. It has to do with searching for (not necessarily finding) your own voice. And this voice is definitely not found by comparing. But, it comes out to play when we can accept where we are and what we contribute to the greater good of humanity.  Remember the lesson from Dichotomy 2 of 6: Being pulled up by generosity will help us stand taller and brighter.

Next up… The last dichotomy! Stay tuned.

Love, Erika

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