05 Jun Dealing with comparison
It has become incredibly easy in this instagram-selfie-social-media culture to compare yourself to other people. A millisecond of someone’s life, in a quadrilateral frame can make you feel incredibly unworthy, and silencing the self-deprecating thoughts is a challenge in itself. My thoughts were along the lines of ‘why am I not as pretty as her?’, ‘I wish I had clear skin like her’, or ‘I need more money so I can buy this bag or those shoes’, and so on. Other times, the thoughts were more insidious: ‘she’s not that pretty’. I would even question my life choices: ‘she’s pregnant – should I be trying for children?’.
Even the best of us compare negatively. We are not infallible. It is okay to have not-so-great days. But the physical and emotional impact of comparison and jealousy in a society profits off of women’s insecurities (such as deeming something as normal as belly fat as ugly, unnatural and unbecoming) can take a heavy toll.
Healing from this type of anxiety requires deep inner work, a great deal of unlearning, patience, perseverance, resilience and sometimes, a very good therapist. Healing is not a linear process and knows no time limits. Here are some suggestions to practise that much needed self-care.
Seek reassurance from Allah
Allah knows us better than we know ourselves and He sees everything we struggle with. Jealousy and comparison can sprout at any time, anywhere and for some of us, turning to our Creator can be so difficult in those moments. Do not feel like a failure if you’re unable to to seek Allah immediately. If you can, that is amazing. If you struggle to, allocate some time in your day to express your grief and to ask for strength. He wants to hear from you.
Allah created us uniquely, with unique features and talents, quirks to offer and express. Write down your interests, what you think about, what do you want to think about and where your hobbies and interests lie.
I was astonished to find that I have a lot of fascinating interests and opinions! Health, environmentalism, fiqh, food, nature, naturopathy, TV shows, books and much, much more. These are the things that define me and to my surprise, these areas are where I – little old me – have influenced people. I think it’s common to underestimate the value our presence has to others when we’re always just so used to putting ourselves down, and believing we’re not enough as we are. However, upon paying close attention, these are the areas where people hear and see you. These are your unique qualities that no one else can offer.
I make new lists every so often and go back to them not only when I’m feeling good, but also when I need a bit of reminding of my worth. And at the end of it, I thank Allah, for giving me these wonderful qualities, the ability to recognise them and the potential to have an impact on others.
This exercise is straightforward but not painless. Write a list of everything that triggers you to compare yourself in a way that is crippling or triggers jealousy. Identifying them, pen to paper, is a therapeutic way of confronting them. You know where you are, where you stand with yourself and the areas you need to confront. A few months down the healing line, you will notice that some triggers no longer affect you – progress!
A short-term solution to quieten belittling thoughts and negative comparison is to repeat simple affirmations quietly or in silence: ‘I am enough’, or ‘I am as Allah made me’. However while those statements are true, valid and relevant, they do not deal with the root of the comparison mindset. Question your thoughts to silence them. Why did you feel threatened? Why did you feel triggered? What does she/he have or are you perceiving she/he has, that you want? Why? What would having these things offer you? What is it that you value? What might jealousy be trying to show about what you desire or need?
And the digging continues until we recognise that what we truly need and value is in our hands and manifests in our own unique ways. We will start to recognise that we already have everything within us, albeit in our own, idiosyncratic ways, with good days and not-so-good days. And finally, we are all exactly where we are meant to be.