Comparison - The Cruelest Cut Of All

I wanted to offer some words around the connection between cultivating self-worth and the process of how we compare ourselves to others.

The pain of comparison rises as a result of the impact of the conditioning that we met growing up, (and are still subjected to as adults). Being constantly compared to others in terms of 'better' behaviour, 'more' success, 'prettier', 'more handsome than' and generally enforcing the beliefs around what a 'good' citizen at any particular time and place looks like. Comparison seems to cut into and trigger the deepest of all my core beliefs; I'm not good enough, I'm not enough, I'm not lovable as I am, I'm just all 'wrong', I've done something wrong. The trauma and emotional pain in my body is barely tolerable when this stimulus rises as it did today (the stimulus? seeing someone else's work and comparing myself to them). I can hardly breathe. There's an 'I don't want this' and enemy images toward all concerned. There's a sense of constriction and a longing to run and disappear.

Comparison eats its way even into our biology, how our body is made depending on our genes. What shape it is, what our face looks like, how straight or otherwise our teeth are. Oh how I wish I could shake off and destroy this conditioning in one fell swoop. To be free at last of those chains and no longer have that 'muscle' that checks on outward responses to me (seeking validation from outside of myself).

And so I stayed with the impact of this, reverberating in my body. To finally not abandon this pain. I took my trusty three legged stool and went to ask the trees for their support and wisdom. I just knew, that if there was any balm to be revealed to me through this particular wounding, the tree would help me to excavate it.


As I walked to my leafy friends the word 'expertise' came to me. Something like 'Clare, when are you ever going to become an expert at what you do? What else will it take? Do you need to do another course? Throw more of your financial resource at this?

And then followed the words 'EXPERT-EASE'. Oh what a balm to my soul this funny made up word brought to me as I arrived to the gate of the beautiful cemetery where I walk. And then the ease arrived into my poor tired body. Laying down the effort to be anything other than the original beautiful being I was when I arrived into the world and the beautiful being that lives and breathes through all that life has thrown at her. To once again enter a belonging with all life where there is no separation. Just me in my soft gaze receiving the life forms around me, squirrels, Dalmatians, dog lovers and butterflies. This growing inner warmth is the fruits of embodied compassion. I am an expert at cultivating ease in my nervous system and body and of offering that regulated state for others to be near and soothed by and giving a landing place for their nervous system to find its beautiful feet in homeostasis.

Tears stream now as I write, ( I enjoy writing best when I am this close to the heat of living) to be able to do the thing my father couldn't do. Self-witness, self-soothe, self-love. And to seed the new tracks of self-worth daily. That when I feel the nauseating grip of life's conditioning, something in me is learning to see it, feel it, be with it and wait. Wait with the life of the trees, for the message to arrive out of and through this embodied embrace.

Clare O'Sullivan

Self-Compassion Teacher & Coach


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