Comparing Myself to Those Who Are Physically and Mentally Healthier Than Me
Compared to a lot of people, I compare a lot. (See? There I go again.) No matter what I do, I compare: to old friends, to new friends, to lost friends, to family members, to peers, to celebrities, to business owners, to people on the street, to people drinking coffee without spilling it, to people on the covers of health magazines, to people driving cars, to employees in a Walmart, to actors on screens – I compare a lot.
And despite years of practice, it has never been of much benefit to me.
The amount of my comparison correlates greatly with the amount of struggles I am fighting. Being someone who has never done anything else but fight to keep living, I compare constantly. And the harder I fight, the more I compare.
I recently was in a hospital to keep me safe from my own mind. And instead of being proud of myself for saving my life, I compared my situation to a few girls I knew who were going on a vacation.
Another recent instance was when I was able to go to a mall with only. Five. Anxiety. Attacks. For someone with severe social anxiety, that’s an enormous accomplishment. But it didn’t seem that way when I compared it to my friends and their graduations (some with honors).
Going three weeks without fainting was a giant improvement. But not when I heard that one of my friends got a scholarship to a top college because they had studied so hard.
I went a whole day without being hard on myself…until I saw that my friend who was three years younger than me got her driver’s license.
It’s a pattern. Not attractive like a houndstooth, plaid, striped or polka dot pattern. It’s similar to a beginner gymnast attempting moves used in the Olympics. It’s not pretty. It’s messy. The pattern gets hurt, damaged. The pattern breaks where it shouldn’t. In fact, it isn’t much of a pattern at all. It’s a mess. It’s a chaotic, broken, ugly mess.
It seems like the bigger my accomplishments are in therapy (physical and emotional), the smaller this world makes them seem. People who may be considered “normal” won’t see the steps of progress like my therapist does, or my friends from treatment do. To them, progress is earning their driver’s license, or getting into their favorite college, or getting a job they love, or owning their first car.
Progress could just be getting out of bed three days of the week. To me, progress might just be trying hard enough to say one nice thing to myself by the end of the day. To me, progress might be waking up and not immediately wanting to go back to sleep.
In the eyes of the world (generally, not everyone), my progress is the easiest part of a daily routine.
“That’s all you could do today?”
In the eyes of my therapist, my progress is a phenomenal leap from where I have been.
“You’ve been working so hard, and you have come so far – and I am so proud of you.”
In the eyes of myself, my progress is…nothing.
“You’re years older than some of these people, and they’re way farther ahead in life than you are. You can’t even drive yet because you keep fainting – you don’t even have a permit – and this person who’s two years younger than you has their own car. You can’t even get a job – you’re so ridiculous, Brooklyn; you should be farther ahead than this. You must not be trying hard enough. Just listen to this world talking to you. You should ‘just push through.’ You should ‘just set more goals.’ You should ‘just try harder.'”
Three different viewpoints.
Three very different standpoints that each stir up very different emotions within me.
The saddest thing is, the belief in the middle is the hardest to believe. Oh, I’ve believed it some days. But those days were few. I try hard to encourage myself, and it works – until I compare again. Then the inexperienced gymnast pattern starts right over.
I wonder some days if that will ever stop. I wonder some days if I’ll be fully healed – of my hurt, of my sicknesses, of my comparison. I wonder some days if I will be completely, wholly, fully confident in who I am.
Until then, I will do one thing – perhaps the best thing – I am able to do. I will let those who love me carry those good beliefs for me. Maybe one day they’ll become mine too.
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Thinkstock photo via Purestock.