Comparing our self to others and yoga
Yoga is more than just the poses (asana) we do on the mat. In fact, yoga was not even created for the body, but rather for the mind. Yogis looked into what was the reason why humans were unhappy, why we were suffering. They figured out that it was something that had to do with our mind, with its constant fluctuations that torment us, like some big waves in the ocean on a windy day. To address the origin of the issue, yoga was created to calm the fluctuations of the mind in order to allow us to be happy, to experience contentment and to see our true nature. The postures (asana) we do on the mat were created to work better towards this aim of calming our mind. And so were other yoga principles, some grouped under the label “the eight limbs of yoga.”
This article is about one particular aspect of the first limb of yoga, called yamas, or “living with others”. To work towards a quiet mind, when living with others, yogis suggested practising ahimsa, which in Sanskrit means “non-violence”, “not to injure” others and ourselves. In the following, I first show that comparing ourselves with others is a form of violence we do, as it ‘injures’ our self or others. Then, in the second part of this article, I suggest a metaphor to support you when you are ready to give up comparing yourself with others. In the attachment, I offer you a guided meditation to feel in your heart, not just in your head, how injustice comparison is.
Comparison as a form of violence
A comparison is something we do quite often. And it is something that is being done to us as well.
“I am not as fast as my colleague in completing this task.”
“Why didn’t you go for an IT job, like your sister, you would have been better off now…”
“I will not get this job, the others in the interview room were so much better than I.”
Because of the emotional injury, it does to us, I see comparing ourselves to others as a form of ahimsa, of violence, a painful injury we do to ourselves.
We never win from comparison because we tell our self we are not enough, we are not complete as we are. A comparison points towards something we are lacking and always brings in a feeling of disappointment with our self. Even when we are the positive one in that particular comparison (we are the sister who has the IT job), we are being labelled. As the ‘wealthy sister,’ we will always feel the pressure of meeting the expectations of our family attached to the title we have been given.
Working with our mind beyond comparisons
From Liliana, my favourite coach and old friend, I learnt how to explain to myself that I am worthy and drop a comparison before bringing myself down. I will share this with you below.
I invite you to think about an author, or a film you truly love, one that is not super popular but resonated with you in a very special way. Ready? As an example, I will choose Nikos Kazantzakis who wrote Zorba The Greek, one of my favourite novels ever.
Then, bring to your attention another author, or a film that is appreciated and valued by a huge audience. Let’s say, Dostoyevsky, with the novel “The Idiot”, another novel that I have greatly enjoyed.
Now, if Nikos Kazantzakis had started comparing himself with Dostoyevsky while writing his draft, very likely he would have given up in publishing his work. “I would never be able to write like this” Nikos would have said, and that would have been the end of Zorba The Greek. What a great loss would that have been!
The point my coach Liliana wanted to make with this example, is that we cannot compare our self with others. You and the person you are comparing yourself to are very different in so many regards: you have different backgrounds, different life stories, a different set of skills, different rhythms of working, of making decisions or choices. You are valuable just the way you are. You are unique, like Kazantzakis, and you can make a difference for the people around you with who you are right now. You are good enough right now, keep on doing what you are doing. Dostoyevsky had different circumstances, different exposure to the public, a different story and different style – accept that comparing yourself with others is unfair, as everything that contributed to who you are right now is different for the person that you are comparing yourself to.
You can click here for a short meditation ( it has a little less than 12 minutes) to walk yourself out of comparisons with your colleagues, with other women or men, with what others have, or don’t have. Enjoy!