We all want to be loving people, who “live and let live” and observe the Golden Rule. Yet it is often difficult to accept other people’s habits, behaviors and/or attitudes when they are different from ours.
Our internal “radar” quickly picks up on differences and translates those differences into a sense of physiological discomfort. This reaction is so clear and unmistakable that we immediately judge whatever caused it as “wrong” and look for the exact way it differs from us. Then we can point to that difference and say just how wrong it is and why.
What If We Don’t Like How “Bad” They Are?
If the different behavior or attitude is something that we view as immoral, inappropriate or harmful in some way, it’s easy to see why we would be uncomfortable with it. We are probably going to view those people as bad or even terrible.
The key in those situations, since we cannot change others, is to remind ourselves that in
their minds their point of view is based on the evidence they’ve been exposed to in life – just as ours is. That makes it nearly impossible for them to see it any other way. (And keep in mind, the greater the differences between us, the more likely they see us as being just as “terrible” as we think they are!)
In seemingly hopeless cases of difference, we can choose to take on initiating a compassionate dialogue with the people who differ from us, not with the aim of “fixing and changing” them, but with the aim of achieving better understanding between us. That gives us the ability to continue the conversation and perhaps find common ground over time, while allowing them to have their point of view.
What If We Don’t Like How “Good” They Are?
Ironically, if the difference falls into the category of someone else being “more successful” than us, we do the opposite: we judge ourselves to be wrong, inadequate, unacceptable, or “not enough.” These thoughts and judgments undermine our value and diminish our uniqueness.
What about handling other’s successes, without stewing with envy? That can be just as big a challenge! We see others who seem to “have it all” or who seem to have it easier, so we feel jealous or think – or maybe even hear ourselves saying – snarky comments to try and “take them down a peg” in our own minds. Unfortunately this only serves to reinforce the inner conflict we are struggling with, and thus further diminishes our own feelings of self-worth.
It sometimes seems impossible not to compare ourselves unfavorably to people who have achieved something we have not, especially if it’s the exact thing we would like to achieve!
Catch Yourself Comparing
The key is to become mindful of the differences you are noticing between yourself and others, and the reactions you are having when you see them. Once you do, you can begin to shift out of your involuntary response pattern and into a more conscious way of handling your feelings.
Try this simple five step process as you go through your day:
- Catch yourself whenever you engage in comparisons. As you get better at it, you may be surprised just how often it’s occurring in your life!
- Once you catch yourself doing it, notice if you want to judge yourself for judging them, or just continue to judge them (or both!).
- Close your eyes (if you’re in a place where you can, otherwise keep them open) and take 3 slow, deep breaths.
- Say to yourself, “I am a perfectly human being, which is why I have this urge to notice differences, make comparisons, and render judgments. There is nothing wrong with me!”
- Ask yourself where you could inject some compassion and space for allowing the other person to be who and how they are, at least for right now. Then ask where you might give yourself that same compassion and space.
If you get into the practice of doing this in the moment, you may start to see your view of people and situations broaden and deepen a bit, making it easier for you to find peace and compassion in moments of uncomfortable differences.
As that occurs, notice that your capacity for seeing new, more positive and effective ways to respond is also growing…making your life and the world around you a better place, day by day!