January 23, 2017
While doing my morning meditations the other morning I came across this in one of my readings,
“Thomas J. De Long, a professor at Harvard Business School, has noted a disturbing trend among his students and colleagues—a “comparison obsession.” He writes: “More so than ever before, . . . business executives, Wall Street analysts, lawyers, doctors, and other professionals are obsessed with comparing their own achievements against those of others. . . . This is bad for individuals and bad for companies. When you define success based on external rather than internal criteria, you diminish your satisfaction and commitment.”
It brought to mind an experience I had about a month ago while trying to deal with my own feelings of inadequacy and while meditating on it I came to the conclusion that it was all about ego and a belief that others are as consumed by our opinions of ourselves as we are when really we are not the centre of the universe let alone theirs and how by comparing ourselves to others we are giving them all of our power. Given the right/wrong circumstances with a glance someone can make us or break us. If we assume what others are thinking our minds will run a whole gamut of what they are thinking of us and how this will impact our world. I came to the realization then that in reality the only one who we need to be concerning ourselves with as far as opinions of ourselves is ourselves. What matters most is how we see ourselves. We need to empower ourselves with a good, no great, sense of self by learning new skills and beliefs about ourselves.
I know for myself I was raised in an environment that was very dis-empowering and my self-worth and self-compassion was very lacking. When I had the good fortune to be enlightened to this fact, and yes I say good fortune because once we have the awareness we have the choice to make the changes we need or want to if we are to thrive in this world we are inhabiting at this time.
Thinking further on the state of things right now in our world especially in North America and remembering the quote I opened this musing with I pondered the point of the anxiety epidemic in North America. I see all this “comparison obsession” as it relates to anxiety, performance anxiety. I have suffered from “social anxiety” all my life or at least that is what I thought I was suffering from when I was in social situations. I would become very uncomfortable, extremely shy and hardly spoke a word. Now I am wondering if it was really performance anxiety, comparing myself to others and fear of not “measuring up” that has caused the anxiety. I am actually a very social being. I quite enjoy social occasions, interactions, entertaining, etc., now that is. Now that I’ve gotten over myself. Now that I no longer seek or need the approval of another to know that I am okay. Was it really social anxiety or the pressure I put on myself to ‘perform’, thinking all eyes were on me(EGO).
As far as I am concerned as long as I am living an honourable life, spending time to prepare each day to meet the day so as to achieve this, engaging life and continuing to empower myself then I feel secure within myself and my “social anxiety” has all but disappeared. This has been a tremendous break through for me as I was literally paralyzed by my anxieties before sometimes literally sitting frozen in the corner of my couch for hours. Today if I feel a seed of doubt creeping in I do something pro-active rather then react. I pick up the phone and call a friend or someone who may be going through difficulties to get out of my own way. I go for a walk and while I’m out there I engage with people and look them in the eye and say “Hi”. I enjoy a stroll along the local beach and use mindfulness to stay present and really take in the beauty around me. I am grateful today for the experience of severe anxiety because I am able to really appreciate the total inverse of it and today I am so relieved to be able to live happy, joyous and free.
Erin Phelan Fletcher