The Comparison Trap
It has occurred to me that our culture consistently and relentlessly encourages us to compare ourselves in so many ways to everyone else that we are in danger of losing our individuality and uniqueness in an effort to be what others tell us to be! I know that may sound a bit dramatic, but I believe this can be especially detrimental to those of us with chronic disease. We struggle enough with positive self-image and so to be comparing ourselves can truly lead to a crisis in our ability to move forward in a variety of arenas.
The types of comparisons
For instance, I do not need anyone to show me how “people my age” are thriving physically, doing daring acts like sky diving or competing in triathlons. Some days I am simply thrilled to get out of bed and prepare a decent breakfast (which may mean a cup of coffee and a granola bar). If we get too caught up in comparing ourselves to an “average person” of our age, it can really make you feel worthless! And how about the exercise suggestions out there? You should do an “hour of aerobic exercise a day” is often recommended. Well, for some of us, that is patently absurd. I want to feel that what I am doing is in line with my disease activity and is just fine, thank you very much.
The same goes for appearance. I am pretty happy to get up, take a shower, get dressed, put on make-up (I really need this, but not everyone does), and start my day. I do not need to be told how necessary it is to keep up with the latest fashion in clothes and shoes. I choose what to wear on my body and feet, primarily for comfort and purpose these days. I do try to select items that will work with my body at any given time, but that changes over time and depends on the circumstances. If I am carrying a little more weight than I like, I will likely choose clothes that will allow for that. And if my feet are bothering me, I will go for shoes that support my feet while providing comfort. If I give in to the comparisons, I will regret it on so many levels, not the least of which is a likely flare.
Financial comparisons are scary too. You watch the homes and lifestyles of some “average people” my age and wonder how what do these people do for a living? I think I am pretty secure until I allow myself to be compared and told to seek a better home, a better car, a better whatever.
Relationship comparison are a trip too. I adore my husband and we have, what I believe is a wonderful marriage of 41 years and a great relationship. Then I read about “couples our age” and how the engage (in and out of the bedroom) and I wonder what in the world is happening? Am I somehow inadequate, less then appealing, etc.?
Finally, for those of us with RA and other chronic diseases, there is the “average patient” comparisons. Don’t fall into this trap! As I have often said, there is no “average patient”! We are all unique and special and totally different and we need to embrace that, not try to fit ourselves into some regimented formula of who we should be. This trap is perhaps the most damaging of all. It can eat away at your confidence, your ability to make good decisions, your motivation, etc. Remember that each of us responds to our circumstances in our own way, in our own time and with the skills and strategies that we each bring to the table.
Embrace being unique!
So my message here is embrace your uniqueness! We are all individuals and we need to respect that. We cannot let outside forces rule our lives or steal our confidence. Traps can be avoided with awareness. Consider yourself informed.