Walking away from comparing yourself to others

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 to practice 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

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 a 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 with the title we have been given.

Woking 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, 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!

 

I might know who is your worst enemy

“For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight.” (Jonathan Livingston Seagull).

This is the story of Jonathan, a seagull different to all the birds in his flock. He is so passionate about flying that he dedicates all his time to flying trainings, to find strategies to fly faster and faster. His speed improves in time from 90 miles an hour to 200 miles per hour, the fastest a gull has ever flown! Celebrating his 200 miles/hour achievement, he speeds up flying through his own flock. Nobody in the flock got hurt. But after Jonathan shares the incredible flying knowledge he has gained with his species, he was called before the Gull Council and was banished from the flock under the accusation of “reckless irresponsibility when flying”.

seagull

There is a little Jonathan in each of us. Maybe you wanted to become an astronaut, a painter, a film maker, a writer, and someone told you are not good enough to do it, or that you won’t have any money to pay for your rent if you pursue that woo-woo idea you cared so much about. Maybe you were keen on quitting your job to do something closer to your heart, to follow your purpose and you gave up because your family did not support you. At least once in a lifetime, each of us has given up on something – a passion, an idea, a dream, a wish because of the social pressure and expectations. You might have blamed it on the ‘Council of the flock’. But actually, I think it was you.

I believe you are your worst enemy. Although I am not denying the social pressure and what a difference can make a supportive social system or family, I believe you are often the harshest critic of yourself. You allow to speak to yourself in ways you would never speak to others. You look into the mirror and you say to yourself words you would never dare to say to your closest friend. You put blame, pressure, junk food, sleepless nights, overtime onto yourself like you would do to no other. And then you still want to fly higher and higher towards your dream?

Now that you know who is your worst enemy, you have the chance to stop whatever harm you notice you do to yourself.

Notice your self-talk. And if it’s junk, just change it, making it encouraging, friendly and loving. Before that job interview, before that meeting, before an important date, just say what you would say to your best friend. You can do it, you’ve got this.

Notice the actions you take towards yourself. What media has taught us is self-care – going for a massage, to the hairdresser, buying an expensive anti-wrinkle or taking a bubble bath – might be just what money can buy for a superficial self-care (questioning the ads I see now!) Go for depth self-care, like talking enough sleep, going for a run or for any type of exercise you enjoy, giving your body nutritious food, giving your brain some helpful learning, getting out for some free fresh air, taking breaks at work, write encouraging words on post-it and stick them all around your house, spend some time in silence (is cost $0!).

You know, the exclusion of Jonathan from the flock is not the end of the story. It is actually just the beginning of it. He does not criticise himself for aiming to fly faster. He is not blaming himself for being different, hence wrong. He goes and meets a group of more advanced gulls who, just like him, fly for the joy of it, not just for eating.

About what’s important in life – wisdom from a senior

“To survive, to keep on living is the most important thing in this world,”

said with low voice Peter, a 71 year old bush walker, driving his car to Eureka Camp on a Friday afternoon. Babak and I were going with Peter for the weekend to do some group bush walks at Yarra Junction. We did not have a car, Peter was kind to give us a lift there, where we were meeting the other bush walkers.

After some small chat about where are we originally from, about Uber and its costs, about the high way, cars and fuel, about the enjoyment of work, Peter said he was at a moment in his life when he was taking some time to plan the next 20 years of his life.

“I need to focus on what is important at my age”, mentioned Peter.

We wanted to hear more. We asked Peter what was it he appreciated in life, looking at it through eyes with more than 70 years of experience in seeing the world.

“Health is the most important thing.”

Then he paused. There is no fun in growing old. Whatever issue we used to have – stubborn or bad knees, cold limbs with bad blood circulation or sudden change of moods – they all grow stronger with age, while our body gets weaker and weaker. “Use it, or lose it” becomes more relevant than ever. Peter was prioritising going to gym at least 3-4 times a week and taking time for bush walks on the weekend. Giving our body the food it needs to be properly nourished and the exercise it needs to say active and fit is the absolute minimum we can do to stay healthy. And this is not really just for seniors. It applies to every single one of us.

“Having good relationships, dear people around you is the way to enjoy your health. Sometimes I think it is even more important than health.”

There was sadness in Peter’s voice when saying this. He has never been married. But this does not mean he could not enjoy the company of the bush walkers, of his friends for Christmas, Easter, or just for the weekend or an afternoon at the next door cafe. When it comes to our happiness, relationships are crucial (I wrote a LinkedIn article about it here a while ago). We might be tempted to prioritise money over relationships, career over spending time with our dear ones, saving up rather than going away for the weekend to visit a family member. Money will not support you with kind words and hot chocolate when you are down and feeling meaningless. Your career will not hold your hand when you are sick either.

“I want to write and publish three novels I have had in my head the last 20 years. And I want to write these novels for the joy of it.”

Peter didn’t like fame, so he wanted to publish under a pseudonym. “When you are famous, you don’t know anymore who is your friend and who is not.” Maybe it is writing that we do just for the joy of it. Maybe it is music, art, gardening, reading, walking, cooking. Whatever it is you always wanted to do, just go and do it now, while you have the time.

We’ve got to Eureka Camp a little wiser than we left Melbourne, grateful to Peter for sharing with us. After all, what seem to be important in life at 70s is highly relevant in our 30s, 40s, or whatever…

Cultivating new habits for our wellbeing at work

The one thing you can control is how you treat yourself. And that one thing can change everything. (Leeana Tankersley).

Your lower back sinks in pain. Today you may not have the usual head tension (could it be because is Friday!), but you are feeling exhausted. There is no energy left in your body to go out for the evening. You cannot focus much on your friends’ conversation anyway. The plan is to spend your weekend to sleep, forget about tasks, and recover from another stressful week at work.

This is not really living, it is dying at work. We know that. Why do we keep on doing it?

There are so many articles out there where you can read about some healthy habits at work: drinking enough water, taking regular breaks, standing up and walking from time to time, going out for your lunch break for a short walk. We read about these habits of better dosing our energy and effort at work. They enter through one ear, go out through the other, leaving us exhausted, into the same killing working routine.

This article gives 3 suggestions on how to integrate these healthy habits into your daily routine at work. I wish I learnt them sooner.

First of all, let’s face this, our deepest foundation for change: humans are creatures of habits. If you work out a day or two, it does not mean you have created a habit. I do not know exactly how many days it takes for the habit to be formed, opinions are very different: some say 21 days, other 32, some opinions are pointing to 66. Anyway, we’ve got the point. We need to prepare to stand up for ourselves for quite a few days to create and cultivate the new habit.

  1. Calendar reminders

At work, we have calendar reminders for all our deadlines and meetings. For meeting up with ourselves, let’s put a calendar reminder as well: notification for refilling your glass of water every hour, for standing up and walk for a couple of minutes, for going out for a walk, for our lunch break, four meditation time. Put these up, or you will forget about it. If you have a to do list, you want to have your new habits there as well. If you have weekly goals, or quarterly KIPs, your health goals and personal KPIs should also be in there, to keep yourself responsible. If you do not take care of yourself, nobody will.

water is good_glass copy

  1. Bundle new habits and old habits together into a ritual

We all have our little routine at work: we take a coffee when we arrive, we eat breakfast when checking our email, we have the stand up meetings, we send daily status reports. It will help cultivating new habits if you link them to something you already do and it already has roots in your behaviour. We drink a glass of water with the morning coffee. After the status report, we stand up and walk around the office for 3-5 minutes. After lunch, we go out for a short walk. Make sure the new ritual is captured in your calendar, just to double check on yourself. 🙂

DSC_0215

  1. Make deals with your colleagues

When I was working in customer support, picking up tickets and calls from customers, it was hard to plan my day, plan my routine, because things would always come up. Then I learnt that when I needed to do something important, I could tell Nicki, my manager, and she would cover me while I was doing the important thing I had on my list.

We can announce our colleagues when we plan to take a 15 minute break to go out for a short walk, invite them to our calendar event and count on them to pick up any urgent tasks coming up in our absence. Moreover, this will also be an invite and reminder for your colleagues to look after their mental and physical health at work. Maybe next time, they will send you a calendar invite for you to cover them when they do their daily walk.

You fully count on yourself to look after yourself. You may get support from your employer, your HR Manager, your Wellbeing Officer or your boss to work on your wellbeing at work. But in the end, it is up to you. And these small healthy habits can change everything the way you feel at work. You know the say:

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”  Lou Holtz

 

The learnings of a city dweller into the wilderness

DSC_3416

The sun was not up yet and we were already on board, on Nooramunga, a 20 metre twin motor boat, harboured in Port Albert, Victoria. We were all mentally prepared and organised for at least nine hour boat trip to Deal Island. Sea sickness pills were our first breakfast…prayers whispered for them to work.

This five-day trip, away from work and from all the skills required to live in the city, was a journey of learning. I guess that’s just what happens when you leave the comfort zone of your home, of your office, and end up in a place when all your tech and professional skills are completely useless.

9 hours on the boat = great opportunity to get out of your head and learn something from others.

Wynne, an experienced white beard captain with red cheeks said nobody got sea sick on the way back. “It’s all in your mind” he said. Carol, the first mate of Wynne and excellent boat operator, taught us the rules of conserving the precious water and toilet usage on the boat and outdoor. Mate, we, the city people, do not even know how to poo properly on a boat or in a National Park #LessonLearnt.

DSC_3492

When we arrived to our destination, Wynne used an inflatable small boat to take us to the shore, on Erith island. This was where we were base camping, just 20 minutes sail away from Deal island. Wynne told us to take the backpacks from the boat and put it to the shore, away from the sand. Applying what I knew from the city (when someone gives you something to do, you need to rush to complete it asap), I started running with backpacks, between the boat and the shore.

“Why are you running? You are not in the city. There is no traffic light, there is no rush. Whnne”

On Erith, we all unpacked, put up our tents and got together for a yummy dinner. Oh yeah, in the middle of nowhere, we even had chocolate cake. When we go away from the city, we take with you as much as we can, somehow to recreate the comfort of the city and the habits we have there. But this time, there was no point in taking the laptop, not even the phone. There was no phone reception, no electricity, no water on this island. Good luck with staring at yourself!

On Saturday, Wynne gave us the first lift to Deal Island. We visited the Museum (East Cove) and for the morning tea we were already up on the hill to the Lighthouse. In the past, the Deal Island Lighthouse was raising proudly as the highest light in the Southern Hemisphere serving fishermen and sea travellers from 1848 till 1992. A couple of us allowed themselves a longer tea break to admire the view from the Lighthouse. Others walked down to where one of the military aircraft crashed in Australia during the World War II. Then we all head towards Squally Cove for lunch. The first day of bush walk ended with Little Squally Cove and, for the fastest and fittest (Gina, John F and Carol to be more specific) – Barn Hill too.

On Sunday, Wynne dropped us to Garden Cove. Walking from there to the Winter Cove, I learnt how little wallabies care about humans here. Wallabies could not bother any less about us taking close up photos of them for Facebook. I learnt how much extra time I had every day without using Facebook and all the social media toolkit that you need in the city to promote yourself to employers, to your friends, to complete strangers.

DSC_3394

Through my inexperienced eyes, all the coves on Deal Island look pretty much the same (stunning clear turquoise water, beautiful sandy beach, a lot of bushes with wild Australian geese, wallabies and dry looking pine trees), except one – the Winter Cove which felt special. It must have been the warm brownish-orange colour of the rocks, the wide opening of the beach, the lovely lunch and afternoon we spent there on that Sunday… or maybe the marvellous encounter with some serious kayakers who showed us some tricks and equipment for light camping. I learnt that the limits are the ones we set ourselves. These kayakers were about 80km away from their departure point. With full awareness, they had to choose what to fit into their small kayak for 10 days in the wild. And I thought that coming by boat, with toilet and tap water was difficult!

Monday was our last day on Erith. We truly made the best out of it by walking to Swashway, crossing over to Dover island, walk to headland and then return to the camp taking different routes. This is when I learnt that every single gram in our daypack matters in enjoying a walk effortlessly.

“Every gram in your daypack is like an emotional baggage. You may not be aware of it, but it bothers you over and over again.”

When you are walking, you have to get your priorities right with everything you put in your backpack. You can take the wok on a base camp if it means a lot to you (there was someone who did that actually!), but not on a pack carry trip. That Monday was certainly a memorable one, as the day when many of us pushed their limits once more. With encouragements and a lot of helping hands from the leaders of the group, we all walked rocky paths we had never dreamed we could walk. We were sweaty (and sometimes frightened too!) while climbing those rocks, but it felt so rewarding at the end of the day.

DSC_3613

On the way back to Port Albert on Tuesday, nobody was sea sick, to confirm Wynne’s wise observation. Two groups of dolphins had raced with Nooramunga on our return, jumping up and down, and singing joyfully.

We are spending a great deal of time worrying about who we ought to become, where is our career going, what is the haircut that suits me best…I felt right there, on the boat, when we listen to the song of dolphins, we see better than ever who we really are at heart.

Bright side of life. Just a cliche?

I thought Copenhagen was not really my cup of tea: the grey days in here were so many and so long that I could feel their heaviness pressing on my lungs; it was not just the sun and the light that I missed but also the warmth of people, the small chat while waiting in a queue, the easy going friendship I made while waiting in the bus stop; on top of everything, converting the prices in the cheapest supermarkets from DKK to RON would always question my competences in math (“Wow, is that really the price!”) and installed the feeling that I have to learn to live only with dark bread, milk, vegetables and tap water.

Grey day, ha?

Last week, I met a Portuguese guy during one of my low skilled shifts in DPU who, in a few sentences, made me realized that my whiny attitude towards Copenhagen has to end.

We had a moment of respiro before the people arrived at the event, so I took the initiative of socializing in my clumsy usual way, asking him where was he from and how did he cope with the weather in Copenhagen. From a Portuguese, growing up under the friendly pleasant sun rays, I was expecting to hear a lot of complains about the weather here. I was already imagining our discussion turning into a critique of this grey place and I was ready to put my own hostilities towards this city into words.

Then I heard the guy saying: “I love the weather here, I can see the seasons changing and it was here that I had experienced my first snow.”

Pfuuu, what?! And the “what?!” must have been readable on my face, because the guy went on:

“You know, people always complain no matter what they get. In Portugal, during winter, there are about +10 C and people complain it’s cold. Then, in summer, they complain about the burning warmth.”

And I had to agree: people always complain no matter what they get. And it is not just about weather we are talking about here.Sunny Day

There are so many things I love about Copenhagen, from using my bike as the only means of transport in the city, the joy of opening the job portal and seeing that there are vacancies I can apply to, the big windows of the houses that would let me peep into their Danish life, the colored buildings or their cozy brick structure, the freedom of jogging wherever and whenever, to the healthy fresh air, great education system, supportive social system, the embracing feeling of safety on public spaces and much more…But on top of my mind, there were the complains about the weather, the coldness of Danes and the prices in the supermarkets…

You may not be in the perfect place. You may not be in a the perfect relationship or not get the job of your dream, or your ideal lifestyle… But you can always ask and train your mind to be aware of the advantages during your life journey. Or else your mind would make your life miserable. Because the Portuguese guy may be right: people usually complain no matter what they get.

Coincidences or interconnections?

For those who believe in coincidences, this story is just an amalgam of facts, scattered on a white page of a silly blog.

DSCF0128

The facts go as simple and reasonable as this: on New Year’s Eve, I biked towards the City Hall square to see the New Year fireworks show; when I biked back after my first beer of 2013 (and last one, I promise), it was dark and there were many broken glasses on the bike lane from the early drinking stars of 2012 and the late drunkers of 2013; I got myself with an absolutely flat tire before I got home; I felt sad, as it was the first “happening” that the New Year brought to me; knowing that today, on the 2nd of January, I was supposed to bike more than 30 km to DPU, then to Charlottenlund and then back home to Amager, the first thing I did on the 1st of January was to go and make an inventory of all the bike service shops in the neighbourhood which open as early as possible for the next day; today in the morning, I took my bike to the only bike service in Amager that opens at 9 AM; the guy from the bike service told me that the earliest my bike will be ready tomorrow; so I walked towards the bus stop, disappointed that my yesterday’s inventory efforts were useless and I still have to pay for transportation tickets today; all of a sudden, 5 metres away from me, a biker girl stopped; she was having a flat tire; she saw me coming and asked me if I knew a bike service somewhere near. I didn’t know ONE, I knew them ALL and their opening times on top.

For those who believe in coincidences, these are just scattered facts put in a post. But I don’t believe in such thing. I know I was down that my year started badly with unpredictable expenses for my new tire and transportation tickets. But my bad luck is somebody else’s good luck. For me, it was not a coincidence that I got a flat tire on New Year night, that I went to search for all the bike services in the neighbourhood  that I hadn’t had my bike repaired the same day so I walked towards the bus stop at a particular time of the day, on a particular street…I had to meet this girl and tell her where to go to get her bike repaired.

Your life is not just your life. It is interconnected with so many others’.