Meditating My Way Out of Comparison

People compare themselves to each other. I don’t know if it’s an evolutionary thing or something we’ve conditioned ourselves to do over the course of thousands of years. But, it’s something we do.

It’s not inherently a bad thing, as it helps us learn where we need to improve ourselves. If we see Bob building a better fire than us to cook his meal, then it makes sense we’d want to try to be more like Bob. It enables growth and an understanding of where we’ve come from and where we’d like to go.

But it’s a double-edged sword, and it’s easy to fall into the loop of discouraging yourself: “I’ll never be as good at that,” “I’ll never be able to do that,” etc., etc. If you can break yourself out of the cycle of discouragement and see it as another avenue of determination (ie, “How do I get to their level?”) then you can turn the sword on its head.

This negative loop is powerful though, and it’s been used against us in many ways.

For example, women face this every day as this comparison cycle is used as a way to market products of all shapes and sizes–without them, obviously, we will never be as attractive or successful or anything.

This negative loop, though, gets me every time and I have yet to find a way to break out of it while it’s happening. And, honestly, I’m tired of it.

Recently, I went through a short but intense period of imposter syndrome. My fellow writers will know the term as it’s a widely talked about phenomenon.

If you don’t know, it’s the feeling of being an imposter and not believing that you are qualified or have the skills to be where you are. You spend your time waiting for someone to call you out as the phony you feel you are.

The feeling can apply to anything.

But, I was feeling particularly bad about my writing career and the fact that I seemed to be surrounded by amazingly talented people, all of whom seemed to have books coming out this year or next. Instead of feeling inspired and happy that I was amongst great talent, I got into the comparison cycle of doom.

There was nothing I could do. Literally. I couldn’t write about it, I couldn’t work on my own book, I was paralyzed by these feelings of inadequacy.

That’s when I realized I had to do something to mitigate these feelings as they come up.

Well, maybe not the feelings, but the endless cycle of negative feedback that runs through my head as it’s happening.

I get so caught up in the negative thoughts fueled by anxiety, which in turn fuels the feelings of doubt and failure and turns it into a self-sustaining cycle, that I can’t seem to escape the loop.

This is where mindfulness and meditation comes in.

Meditation is a useful tool for learning and recognizing your thought patterns. Despite popular belief, it’s not really meant to quiet your mind or make your mind go blank. Instead, you are meant to be an observer of your thoughts and–with a focus on your breath–you let them drift away like clouds.

Through meditation, you can learn to be mindful of your thoughts and catch them as they arise.

Instead of falling victim to the thoughts that tell me I’m not good enough, or I’m never going to be a writer, or that everyone is so much more talented and amazing than I am, I can take back control and recognize that these are merely thoughts. I don’t need to internalize them, I don’t need to acknowledge them. I can engage and refute them or, better yet, I can just let them go.

But, unfortunately, I’m not there yet.

I’ve tried meditation in the past, many many times, and I can’t seem to stick to a good routine. It’s not for lack of trying or desire, but something just hasn’t stuck. I try these mediation challenges and I can keep it up for a time, but it always seems to slip.

I think this most recent hurricane of imposter syndrome and anxiety, though, is enough to make me want to build a solid routine.

So that’s what I plan to do for myself: A proper meditation schedule that will help me be more mindful of the negative thoughts as they crop up.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to come back here in a few months and write about what I’ve learned during this process.

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