August 19, 2011

The Comparison Condition

It was one of those days when all I wanted to do was curl up in a chair and not think.  I didn't want to do anything but engage in a mindless activity, whether it was watching TV, perusing through facebook, or picking up a trashy magazine.

So I mind-numbingly picked up my computer. Within ten minutes, I began to feel "ill."

It had started innocently enough.  I read the Huffington Post and NY Times, checked my gmail, read a few blogs, and then stared at my computer hoping that a cool website would pop into my head.  When it didn't, I logged into facebook (despite the small voice that begged, "don'tdoit").

Ten minutes into reading people's status messages, I began feeling what I can only describe as "weird."  I read about someone's yoga class and felt ashamed at my constantly deprived yoga practice. I read about someone's trip to Argentina and felt antsy to travel.  I read about someone's job success and felt inadequate in my own job hunt. I read about someone's gourmet home-cooked meal, and felt guilty about the fact that I've barely cooked all summer (I've helped people chop vegetables, does that count?).  I read about someone meeting the President of Rwanda (yes, that's you Elizabeth), and was inspired, but then wondered what the heck I was doing sitting at my desk job. The next thing you know, I had contracted the "comparison condition."

My family will be the first one to tell you that I have a tendency to self-diagnose myself with illnesses. Speech dyslexia? Check.  Perpetual Morning Hands?  Check.  Thin Skin Condition that results in me breaking out into a heat rash every time I take a shower?  Check.  Fatty Forehead Syndrome? Check. (No, but really, if you press my forehead hard, your fingerprint will remain embedded in my forehead for a good five minutes. Ask my siblings).

And now, I can add Comparison Condition to my list. This condition is defined as follows:

Comparison Condition:  mild virus caught through social media exposure or direct contract with another person who has certain qualities or opportunities that I don't have.

Symptoms: initial curiosity or inspiration turned into dull pangs of anxiety (often felt in the gut), inadequacy, frustration. Shortness of breath. Deep sighs. Longer blinks. Slumped shoulders.

The at-home remedy? This is what I'm experimenting with.  I'm currently trying the good ole Stop. Drop.and Roll.  Stop what I'm doing (close magazine, turn off computer) and stop the downward spiral of thoughts.  Drop the comparisons (replace comparative thoughts with affirmations). Roll onward (focus on breath and keep moving).

The irony about most of my "mindless" activities is that they are anything but mindless. Are they entertaining? Certainly. Do they require little effort? Of course.  But what happens during and after I engage in these type activities is that I become emotionally drained--I start to compare myself to people and convince myself that I am not complete as I am. I then expend energy thinking (falsely) that I need to be more like "them" to be happy or at peace or successful, as opposed to learning how to utilize my own unique gifts and purpose. If I constantly spend energy and time thinking about what everyone else is doing, I will have nothing left to spend on myself. And when I do spend energy on myself, what type of energy do I want to surround myself with? What if I replaced unkind words with affirmations? What if I replaced thoughts of inadequacy with thoughts of power? What would happen? Perhaps my immune system would be better at warding off the comparison condition, maybe that's what.

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