Regardless of annual income, or lack thereof, the only real estate that we all have guaranteed to us is our own personal space. I’m not talking the walls that house and shelter you, I’m talking about the intangible energies that embody who we are and how we conduct ourselves. We are constantly maintaining, creating, and promoting the space around us. Think about the last time you said, “I just need some space.” What is it that you were craving at that time? My guess would be you were looking for a sense of peace, calm, or perhaps clarity that seemed unattainable at that moment.
A combination of our thoughts, perceptions, and ongoing behaviors create the space that we call our own and each of those things perpetuate either positive or negative energy around us. What I continue to learn most is that if I am in a place of fear, uncertainty, insecurity, and separation…I tend to react with tension and even anger to people around me. However, when I’m relaxed, feeling connected to the world around me, and open; I am more likely to experience patience, tolerance, and warmth to those very same people and circumstances. Notice, I said, “more likely”. It’s not as if we become immune to all those things, but perhaps we become more adaptable.
All sorts of things can negatively impact the equilibrium we experience within our personal space and at the end of the day it is up to us to decide if there is going to be a small ripple of a current or an all-out smashing wave of discontent that smacks us in the face. It may be the ongoing responsibilities that seem to pile up during the work day. But it can also be the uncomfortable feeling when you are not feeling yourself and someone close to you asks what’s wrong and you simply don’t know how to put your feelings into words. Often though, it’s that sense that the world is crashing down, things are changing too fast, and nothing feels certain.
Whatever the case, we can arm ourselves with tools that help us create, maintain, and promote the best possible space around us that is full of love and hope. I’m not suggesting we put our heads in the sand and pretend that bad things don’t happen or that some days are not going to be harder than others. However, if we become intentional about our personal space and diligently assess our interactions, we will begin to realize whether our perceptions, thoughts, and actions are being impacted by fear and uncertainty. And ultimately through increased awareness, we can determine if the space we need is a complex layers of a process which identifies our true need…which is love.
“Comparison is the thief of joy”—Theodore Roosevelt.
You know the saying “that’s like comparing apples to oranges”? When I was younger, it would always baffle me because I couldn’t understand why you would need to compare such similar objects. But as a culture, that’s what we like to do…compare identical things and circumstances and then participate in an exercise in identifying as many differences as you can.
The problem is that when we do this with ourselves and with people in our life, then we start attaching value or worth to those differences. Suddenly the apple is better than the orange, or the orange is more vibrant than the apple. We must determine the hierarchy of differences and assume the most valued object.
Brene’ Brown talks about this phenomenon in her book The Gifts of Imperfection. She refers to this idea of robbing ourselves from joy the second we start comparing to another person’s circumstances. We get so caught up in this idea of who has what and who did what that we minimize, and sometimes even negate value to everything we have ever known.
The skill is not about training your brain to stop comparing. After all, some comparisons can be incredibly useful and lead to great insights. The skill is increasing your awareness of how those comparison’s impact your overall sense of well-being. Here are examples of defeating comparison statements:
- “I could do X if only I had Y like my friend so and so.”
- “Oh, I’m having a bad day, but it’s nothing like what you’re going through…..”
- “Yes, I’ve lost 10 pounds, but I still need to lose 5 more.”
- “If I was making that much money, life would be so much better.”
- “Things are not going so well, but I know they can always be worse.”
In each of the examples the actual situation is discounted through the act of comparison. It’s a vehicle to find ways to account for something that is lacking or a desire for change without accountability. It’s also a method to devalue something painful or uncomfortable. They allow a rationale to escape the full experience of whatever is happening at that moment.
If we begin increasing our awareness of how often we get lost in this act of comparison then eventually it will lead to us to recognizing that we are enough exactly as we are at this moment. There is still room to improve upon something or create space for change, but first embrace acceptance for the being that you are in this very moment.
Hold this thought….”You have everything you need.” This isn’t some profound discovery. It has always been true. Sure, go ahead, argue the fact. I invite you to reflect on the purpose of trying to disprove it first. I expect some people would go to the nth degree of literal here and say, “Wait, you need food…you need water, shelter..and so on.” I will save the trouble and whole heartedly agree, and I will gently follow-up with the statement that the spirit of this concept is not to cause some great controversy. It is to invite you to think about the purpose of comparison. Is it to motivate you to do something greater with your life? It is to inspire you to be better? Or is it simply to give a louder voice to an inner critic that is often questioning your own value? Because if we start comparing ourselves and highlighting some differences that lend to an illusion of value and worth; we become separate from others. And when we spend more of our life in a state of being separate…we spend more time feeling disconnected, lonely, and ultimately less valued.
Here is a practice in the spirit of unity and well-being: the next time you hear or experience a remarkable accomplishment, stroke of luck, or encounter a challenge or barrier to something; instead of going to that place of comparison simply experience the feeling that arises and emotions that follow and detach from the impulse to immediately file that away as better/worse/luckier/scarier/or any other ‘er’ word for your own life. When we can be completely present in our lives without needing a comparison for ourselves or another person, it becomes a true way of honoring each other and maintain a connection without the expense of someone’s worth, especially our own.
It’s not about agreeing that an apple and an orange are different or even how they are similar…it’s about appreciating the apple just as it is and the orange for everything it has to offer. When we can appreciate things and ourselves exactly as we are, something beautiful happens…we begin to feel more connected to others and ultimately more loved and valued.
If you’re going through a tough time, experiencing grievances, or simply having a bad day, own it. If you’re doing well and enjoying success, own that. If someone else succeeds, enjoy their happiness with them. If they fail, support them. Be accountable for your own situation without having to add some sort of disclaimer as to how it could be better or it could be worse. Realize that everyone is on their own journey with their own obstacles, worries, and triumphs. We are human. We are all beautiful and complex. And most of all, we are perfectly imperfect.
What defines a connection? How do you know you have connected with someone or something and what does it feel like? And most importantly, how do you nurture these connections? Some people may define their connections in direct correlation with the number of friends they have on Facebook or how many followers they have on Twitter, but I am talking about something more; something deeper that is not captured or analyzed by social media sites.
Connections are meaningful experiences you have with someone or something that happens within yourself. It’s when you think “this person totally gets me and is simply amazing”. It is an interaction that leads you to want to spend more time with that person, get to know them, and share more experiences. It is the feeling you have when you feel most comfortable in your own skin. And when you don’t need words to fill a silent space. Connections happen when you feel like you are a part of something bigger than your immediate surroundings. It’s a moment when you are standing on the edge of the ocean and you realize how small you are in comparison to the whole world. It is when you witness nature in a pure sense and feel like there is purpose within you that speaks ever so softly.
Connections are not to be measured, they are to be experienced. They create a space in your soul that reminds you that you are loved and valued and a part of something much bigger than you can even imagine. It is through real life interactions that connections grow.
If you do nothing else this week, find a way to nurture one of your treasured connections. Step outside and gaze at the sunset or clouds in the sky. Feel the breeze on your skin as you watch squirrels play in the yard. Buy a card and write out a few lines of gratitude why a particular person is important to you. Or better yet, send them a hand written note. Have dinner with a good friend. Remind yourself and the people in your life what really matters.
Of course, I enjoy using social media and other high-tech methods to stay in touch with loved ones. However, I believe it’s critical to remember the importance of how we sustain our most treasured resources both within and outside of our self. I’m sure there is an app somewhere that is designed in the spirit of ‘staying connected’, but nothing is as dependable as the internal programming of my heart and soul. 🙂