Be A Voice, Not An Echo

"Be a voice, not an echo" ~Albert Einstein

Simple ways to stop comparing yourself to others and appreciate the real, quirky, beautiful, magical person that you are!

With the beginning of a new year, many of us are embarking on new goals and aspirations. Such new opportunities for growth will inevitably bring challenges. One of the greatest of those challenges that so many of us struggle with is the tendency to compare ourselves with others.

Comparing ourselves to others is a natural and inherited instinct, evolved to help us quickly analyze others to see how similar they are to us and to ultimately decide whether or not they are a threat to our survival. This ability served us when we were living in caves and surviving in tribes, but in today’s world of social media, excess and poverty, and everything in between, this has become a habit we do not need to strengthen. It is exhausting, childish, and simply doesn’t serve us at all.

I recently returned from teacher training in India. While there, I was surrounded by some of the most compassionate, aware, and down-to-earth people I have ever met, yet I still found myself sometimes relentlessly picking away at my sense of well-being with thoughts of inadequacy: “You’re not as skinny as that girl, can’t lift as strongly as that guy, you’re not as clever as her….” We were there for yoga training, doing more than 4 hours of yoga class every day, yet I still found refuge by slipping away during our limited breaks for my own grounding, empowering practice. Yoga has always been a friend to me in that regard, but it too can sometimes pose challenges in remaining true to, and honoring ourselves. Here are some simple things that I have found to be helpful in learning to love myself for who I am:

  • Awareness. Be on the lookout for thoughts of comparison. When they start to creep up, try to detach yourself from them. Observe them from afar, acknowledge that they are there, but don’t succumb to them. Recognize that they are just thoughts: activity of the mind that need not have any power over your happiness and sense of true self.

  • Find Gratitude. Gently shift your focus to what you do have, on what you are already blessed with. Count what you have, not what you don’t. Think about how fortunate you are to have the people in your life who care about you, to have food on your table, a roof over your head, to be alive at all.

  • Be your own friend. Instead of joining in when the mean voice of comparison pops up, choose to be on your side. Relieve, soothe, and comfort yourself. Give yourself regular pep talks, and if you wouldn’t say it to a friend, don’t say it to yourself.

  • Focus on your strengths. Instead of looking at your weaknesses, ask yourself what your strengths are. Celebrate your unique gifts! Be proud of them. Don’t brag, but feel good about them and share them to make the world a more beautiful place.

  • Find perfection in the “imperfections.” No one is perfect — intellectually, we all know that, but emotionally we often feel bad when we don’t reach perfection. We all must strive to be our best selves, but that doesn’t mean chasing after someone else’s idea of success. “Imperfection” is what makes you who you are, you already are perfect.

  • Don’t knock others down. Sometimes we try to criticize others just to make ourselves look or feel better. Taking someone else down for your benefit is destructive. It forms an enemy when you could be forming a friend. In the end, that hurts you as well. We are all inhabitants of this planet. The sooner we stop competing against each other, the faster we can start working together to figure out what life really is all about.

  • Focus on the journey. Don’t focus on how you rank in comparison to others — life is not a competition. It’s a journey. We are all on a journey: to find something, to become something, to learn, to create. That journey has nothing to do with how well other people are doing, or what they have. It has everything to do with what is important to us, and what voice we want to have in the world. That’s all you need to worry about.

  • Pursue the greater things in life. Some of the greatest treasures in this world are hidden from sight: love, humility, empathy, selflessness, generosity. Among these higher pursuits, there is no measurement. Desire them above everything else and remove yourself entirely from society’s definition of success.

  • Take a walk. Next time you find yourself comparing yourself to others, get up and change your surroundings. Go for a walk! Appreciate the fresh air that pours into your lungs with each breath, notice the birds who might be singing in the trees around you, feel the warm sunshine or a cool breeze on your skin. Transport yourself purley to the present moment.

  • Learn from nature. Do you think a lion looks at a zebra and says “Oh, I wish I had her stripes…they really make her look slim”? NO, the Lion is too busy grooming his beautiful coat and mauling antelope with his huge teeth to care. Do you reckon the birds look down at the fish and ask, “Why do they have fins and we’re just stuck here with these stupid wings”? NO, they are too busy soaring through the skies. (Will Aylward)

Your qualities, quirks, skills, strengths are all unique gifts: your irreplaceable contribution to the beauty and complexity of our world. Realize how unique you are and embrace the greatness that lies within. Be extraordinary. Be YOU.

You can join Jessica in her Morning Flow Yoga classes at Yoga Art Space on Wednesday and Friday mornings at 9:30am.

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