01/03/2013 03:20 pm ET Updated Mar 05, 2013

Compare and Despair

Ever since I was a little girl, I remember opening my presents on Hannukah and thinking, "Ah, I wish Mom got me what she got my sister. The pink sweater she got me is great, but why didn't I get the green one?" I couldn't help that impulse to wish I had gotten the thing I didn't get.

More than a decade later, I am still often plagued with what I like to call "compare and despair." It is a distorted sense of perception that especially seems to run us wild during the holiday season. How is it that, when we compare what we have against what someone else has, we so often find ourselves coming up with the short end of the stick? As much as we may think we like what we have, the minute we compare it with what someone else has, we don't like it as much anymore. Suddenly our job is not exciting enough, our house is too small, our husband works too much, and most tragically of all, we don't own enough shoes. With the help of "compare and despair," the grass suddenly seems greener on the other side.

What is underneath this mind trick? Our mind is going into "compare and despair" because it already believes we are inadequate. It's not so much that once we compare our "pink sweater" to her "green sweater," we feel a sense of inferiority. Instead, it's because we feel a sense of inferiority that we go into the comparing in the first place. You only go into comparing when you are feeling less than. And our mind's job is to find evidence in the external world to prove true whatever it already believes internally. The act of comparing what you have, who you are, or what your life situation looks like to someone else is like looking through "lack" glasses -- that's all you're going to find, and its impossible to see anything to the contrary. The problem is not that you don't get paid as much as your colleague, or that your hair doesn't naturally dry stick straight out of the shower like your friend's does. The problem is, you're wearing the wrong glasses!

How do you take off the "lack glasses" that are keeping you from the abundance of your own life? Keep the focus on you and practice gratitude. It's not about going into a comparison and being grateful because what you have is better than what the other person has. It's about feeling fulfilled enough in yourself that you don't even need to do any comparing to begin with. Any form of comparing occurs when we have trouble owning where we are or what we have and want to hold it up against something else to measure its value. The worth or value of our personalities, life situation, partner, or holiday gifts are not measurable by what other people have or don't have. Self-actualization is about realizing it's not about other people at all. It's about us and how we stand in relation to our own abundance -- not how we relate to other people's. The more we value ourselves, the more valuable everything in our life will begin to look.

Every day, you're unwrapping the gift that is your life. Maybe it's not a mint green Tiffany's box with a crisp, white bow. But it's the perfect gift for you, and how "perfect" it appears is directly proportional to how much perfection you're looking for. What does it serve you to want the "green sweater"? You already have "pink," and that's the best color on you anyway!

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