Yesterday at yoga the teacher began with the standard yoga instructor admonition about how you should never compare your yoga practice to anybody else's. They all say that.
In the confines of yoga, the idea of not comparing yourself to others makes sense to me. I mean yeah, I am guilty of sneaking a peek at the woman who can stand on her head and fold her body like a pretzel, but even then I usually don't feel horrible about myself compared to her. I'm like, we all have our yoga strengths and weaknesses.
Out in the real world, the one where we wear shoes and the lights are on, I have a harder time trying not to compare myself to others. I mean, it's sort of human nature to draw comparisons between yourself and others. Whether you're trying to figure out how many days a week to work out, when your child should be able to walk, or whether you're earning an adequate salary, you look to the examples set by others so you can have a reference frame. You can only know how you measure up if you look at how other people measure up. People ask, How far do you swim? Is Billy walking yet? How much did they pay for their house? Qualities such as normal, adequate, and right are subjective, and the best way to measure them is to look at examples set by other people. Sometimes comparing yourself to others is necessary.
And sometimes comparing yourself to others can drive you bat-shit insane.
How can she be pregnant with her sixth child when I feel overwhelmed with one? Why does her husband cook dinner every night when my husband doesn't actually know where the kitchen is? Why is she so thin when I'm so fat? How can she work full-time and run a business on the side when I haven't been able to earn a single cent since 2008? How come her kid can read and mine still doesn't know what the letter "A" looks like?
And it gets even worse when you start comparing your emotions to other people's.
If she can do X and Y and still have the energy to do Z, I am not allowed to be tired just from my dumb day of sitting around blogging. She's dealing with [insert legitimate life problem here] and she seems happier than I am, and I have a really good, easy life and I feel sad.
I am not allowed to feel tired. I am not allowed to feel sad. I am not allowed to feel overwhelmed by my stupid, petty problems. Nobody else feels this way.
But I think of something else the yoga teacher said:
Nobody else is inside your body.
(I guess this statement doesn't work when you're an instructor for prenatal yoga. Or if, you know, one of your students has some kind of parasite. But fetuses and tapeworms aren't really all that judgmental, so I think the whole spirit of "nobody else is inside your body" is still true.)
Nobody else feels the exact same things you feel. Nobody else experiences life the way you do. Things may not affect you the same way they affect other people.
All of this is just more stuff that seems so obvious, and yet our thoughts and actions never seem to reflect an understanding of this most basic principle. People say things like, What does she have to be depressed about? Or, You should be over this by now.
Except, you don't know. You are you, and I am me. And we've never traded places like in the movie Freaky Friday, so you don't feel life the way I feel it. And, of course, I don't know what it feels like to be you, either.
I am not cured of my tendency to compare myself to others. But I try to keep my yoga instructor's words in my mind.
Nobody else is inside your body.