Voices of Comparison
When I was an actress, I was surrounded by extreme extroverts who were never afraid to be loud, artistic, and outgoing. I always struggled with anxiety, especially when I was auditioning. I was inspired by my fellow theatre nerds who exuded confidence even when they felt nervous or insecure. I walked into auditions with a big smile on my face and my voice trembled and legs shook. I'd forget lyrics to songs, and physically shrunk with butterflies in my stomach. I pretended to be outgoing and confident, but on the inside my thoughts consumed me overanalyzing every move and blink the director would make.
Voices: Do they like me? Am I too short? Are the other girls better?
These voices followed me through everything I did in my personal and professional life. I ran away from theatre because the voices became too toxic and loud. I became a yoga teacher because whenever I stepped on the mat, I entered a world of inclusion, comfort, and self-love. However, when I embarked on my first yoga teacher training and started managing my first yoga studio at the age of 23, the voices returned.
Voices: Am I qualified? Am I good enough? Do I look the part? Will I make enough money? Will I succeed? Am I too young? Will they respect me?
These voices made it incredibly hard to be myself. The constant comparison and self-judgement often brought back anxiety and stagnation. I continued in my career, and though I gained experience and confidence, the voices popped up in the most unexpected places.
Recently, I became a Mom. Even during pregnancy, I consistently compared my choices, body, experiences to other soon-to-be Mom's. After a c-section and lots of challenges breastfeeding and recovering, I started to witness the voices. The other day, I went to my first Mom's group. I was excited to get out of the house and get some human interaction. I walked into the room and there were around 20 mothers breastfeeding and chatting about their babies' development. I immediately started to feel nervous.
Voices: Will they judge my bottle feeding? Will I make friends? Is my baby developing? Is it bad that I'm already back to work?
As a coach, I witness my clients battling their own voices that hold them back from authentically pursuing their dreams. Many times this is due to past habits and patterns that the voices created. Whether you compare yourself to a coworker, fellow Mom, other friends' relationships, we all have those voices that tell us that we are not good enough.
The funny thing about comparison is that when the voices turn on telling us what other people are thinking, most of the time the other person is listening to their own voices, not yours. How many times have the voices actually been correct? The more the voices start to talk, and the more you start to listen...the more the stories start to feel real.
When the voices turned on in the audition room, often times I still got the part. When they turned on in the yoga room, I focused in on my students and felt grounded and connected in my own voice. When I entered the room of fellow mothers, they ended up being incredibly supportive and welcoming. All the stories I created in my head never came true.
The real obstacle is that the voices will always be there. When you tell them to stop talking, it's like saying "don't think about a white elephant." You're totally thinking about a white elephant right? Working to co-exist with these voices is a practice. Can you work on distinguishing the difference between reality and non-reality? Start to notice if the voices are creating stories that may never happen. Recognize what IS real and explore why stories of judgment and comparison are bubbling to the surface. You can incorporate this work into a mantra, meditation, or journaling exercise. Write down the stories, and then rewrite them as truths. Can you start to observe what comes up for you emotionally, rather than react? As you start to do this work, I hope that you will find that listening to your heart, observing yourself in the moment, and actively listening to truths will bring you a sense of peace and mindfulness away from the mind chatter!