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Like all popular technologies, comparison gets a bad rap. But I contend that its faults lie in how we use and abuse it and NOT in the fact that it exists at all.

I’ve spoken plenty of times about the value I find in social media and smartphones, two aspects of modern living that people love to talk smack about. I’ve shared specific ways both support and serve me, along with strategies that help keep me from being too much at their mercy in the ways that are so often condemned. I use those tools to connect me to others, to the greater world around me, to presence and clarity and intention. (Here’s a general post on the subject, and here’s a video I made about how social media can support a more present experience.)

I count comparison as another tool or technology in that category, one that we use to reflect and make sense of the world around us. Comparison is a natural inclination that allows us to understand ourselves through another lens and align our energies and our actions with what we discover.

It allows us to recognize and realize, with specificity, the things we like and want as well as that which we do not. More X than that, less Y. I like it just like THAT, or different in such and such way. Shades and nuances of color, behavior, and being. Sometimes I don’t even realize what I want or don’t want until I see it played out before me, or see what could be instead.

With every internal expression of YES or NO in response to some question or thing or experience, I learn how to read my body’s wisdom better. I compare what I feel to what I think, I compare what I thought I would feel to what I do, and I compare what I want with what I’ve got, all the while comparing THAT to what my body feels. Comparison helps me fine tune my sense of what feels, intuitively, good and right for me, so I can use that in my everyday decision-making.

I can see someone I know do something amazing online and be buoyed by their success, lit up by their light and inspired by their dedication, commitment, boldness, luck. When I’m feeling well within myself, I don’t get bogged down in feeling less than or inadequate, and I don’t get caught up in the more damaging entanglements of comparison.

This is NOT an invitation to judge yourself when you DO get caught up in the dark side of comparison, by the way. It’s human. You’re human. We all go there at times. And we all can endeavor to do better, not out of shame or blame or any other negatively-charged, weaponized emotion. Just because we love ourselves and want the best for ourselves, which is an ever-fluid, beautifully-evolving target.

If I notice that I do find myself caught in the web of the comparison trap, that’s powerful, useful information! A signpost to look deeper – into where I may not be following through on things I really want, where I feel captive to the urgings of others, where I feel voiceless, unseen, or undervalued. With that understanding, I can take action to make change that speaks to the deepest, truest part of me.

Comparison becomes toxic when we lace it with judgment. When we think that wherever ANYone is at means ANYthing about where anyone ELSE should be. I go to movies and concerts and museums and book stores to admire the art others make, to experience connectedness and beauty and to have the source of my own creativity inspired, replenished, awed and held. I consider witnessing the successes of others in much the same light, and that allows me to detach (more or less) from the itchy elements that nag me to tear myself down in regret of how I don’t measure up.

When I’m not judging the world around me I’m less inclined to feel judged by them, and so even less inclined to judge myself. That is mostly true, though not entirely complete.

Sometimes the way I judge the world looks like self-preservation and feels like solitude. A disconnect between the world I live in and the one in which I want to live – when I feel like it’s a judging world so I better get on board, is when I start to doubt myself and when my comparisons turn bitter, bent, and biting. When I feel as if it’s judge or be judged, either I judge first and choke on the stench of smugness that doesn’t sit well in my stomach, or I engage without judgment, resigned to the sadness of knowing I may very well be judged myself.

If you find yourself feeling bad when you see the successes of others around you, by all means take a break from social media or whatever space is inciting those feelings. But please don’t mistake that for a cure to what’s ailing you. At some point, when you’re ready – or maybe a smidge of a speck before – you would do yourself well to take a look at what comparisons are getting you down, where you feel most jealous, envious, or disappointed. Because there’s a reason for those feelings, and avoiding them doesn’t make them disappear. You owe it to yourself to pay some attention there so you can uncover what it is you wish you had or did but don’t or haven’t yet.

Comparison can give us something to hold on to. It can act as a stepping stone to our dreams, formed by seeing what we want, adopting, emulating, seeking or conceiving it, and allowing that to propel us down the path to where we want to go. And it can alert us to the times and ways we’ve wandered off our course. What have you got to lose by giving that perspective a try?

Got any thoughts on comparison that you’d like to share? Please drop ‘em below! And if you’d like to explore your options for going deeper on this or anything else, drop me a message or just go ahead and set up a free Possibilities call! And be sure to check out all my limited-time holiday season special offer here! xxoo, cc

This post was inspired by a response to a request I made on Facebook for ideas of topics to write about. Thanks to Jen Anthony for suggesting the topic of comparison!!