By focusing on how good we are in comparison to others, the brain chemicals released are likely to make us feel very good. Over time, this can unfortunately contribute to a judgmental mind-set. Constantly judging to compare ourselves with others can stimulate anxiety, fear, anger, overwhelming stress responses or self-righteousness and may change our mind-set to one that lacks compassion for ourselves and others - a mindset that is out of touch with feelings and needs.
When we find ourselves or someone else to be lacking, it can lead to all kinds of judgments. A judgmental mind-set and resulting stress responses evoke feelings in us that can make it challenging to express ourselves, connect with others or to focus on the things we want to achieve. An added energy draining challenge is having to propagate this self-righteous image in order to keep feeling good about ourselves.
We can be driven by a need to feel good through comparing ourselves to others. Our thoughts and actions may revolve around things that make us seem kinder, more attractive or more intelligent than others. This requires that we judge ourselves as being special and above average. This is how society becomes increasingly competitive and bias towards self-enhancement and put-downs to dent the self-esteem of others. Over time this type of mind-set erodes compassion and leads to a sense of isolation and disconnection.
To feel good, we must stop the imaginary competition with others that can cause so much suffering. We can release ourselves from modes of comparative thinking and instead of comparing ourselves, we can accept and embrace who we are and develop our skills of self-compassion and compassion for others.
While humans have many things in common, we all have unique lives, minds, emotions, thoughts, abilities and limitations. We can ground our self-esteem by basing our sense of self-worth on being the unique beings that we are and realising that we are all equal.
Applying self-compassion, we can re-frame our lives. Our every achievement counts because we can acknowledge them with an awareness of what it took to achieve them. For someone who experiences depression, getting out of bed in the morning is an achievement.
We can look at our challenges and failings with self-compassion, instead of berating ourselves. We can remind ourselves that we are doing our own personal best. On days when we don’t manage, we can give ourselves a break, remain hopeful and never add to our suffering. We can soothe ourselves and be kind to ourselves, just like we would do for a friend.
Self-critical thoughts that relate to events from the past or future may be recalled as part of a stress response. When we notice any habitual unkind or judgmental thoughts, we can acknowledge their presence, yet we do not hold onto them – we change our relationship with them – they are not truth – it is just auto-generated thoughts as the mind chatters along. We do not attach any sense of truth to those judgmental thoughts and we do not engage with them through internal dialogues. Uninfluenced, uninterested, unimpressed, unmoved, we notice judgmental thoughts and let them pass along without engaging them.
We can select compassion technique to practice whenever we notice that we are judging our worth in comparison to societal norms or unique attributes of others. Regular practice of compassion skills and emotional regulation is also helpful to disintegrate stored and habitual stress responses. Once our competitive tendencies become uninteresting, we can be sure that our emotions have been regulated and these specific stress responses have been permanently dismantled. We can actively build an enduring, healthy sense of self-esteem, and free ourselves from the tendencies to compare ourselves to others.
• Practicing to pay attention to the present moment experience
• Developing an accepting attitude toward ourselves
• Labelling self-critical thoughts and emotions with words
• Let thoughts come and go without reacting to them
• Developing compassionate communication skills
• Developing a non-judgmental mind-set toward self and others
These mindfulness skills increase self-esteem – a substantial increase in self-esteem can be reached within only 15 minutes of doing a mindfulness breathing exercise. Mindfulness may directly enhance self-esteem by tempering the underlying processes and stress responses associated with low self-esteem. It is very very useful to stop comparing ourselves to other people. We develop our own unique, enduring, healthy, enjoyable, feel-good self-esteem.