"Don't compare your insides to somebody else's outsides."
This must be one of the best pieces of advice I've received... thanks to this dear friend.
I remember how I felt in my first few yoga classes, when I was in my early 20's...I remember being more critical, more judgmental of myself. (Oh my goodness. I'm realizing this a bit late, but saying "20's" now means saying it in past tense.)
"Why is my forward bend not as good as hers? Why can't I balance as well as she does? Why does her [insert yoga pose here] look so effortless?" And so on.
I think I've become less and less critical of myself over time. I've come to just enjoy how I feel in a particular yoga pose. I savor those moments of being sensitive and perceptive to how I'm feeling, physically and mentally, during a yoga practice. My forward bend may not look like the next person's, but perhaps I'm feeling a better stretch today than yesterday. And if I don't feel great in the stretch today, then I just gently ease into it, and stop when I have to, when I find that "edge." Through the past several years, I've slowly learned to stop focusing on what other people can do and how they look like in a pose. What a great relief it is to feel this way!
But I also remember being critical of myself in other ways, and comparing myself to other people. Why is it that when we're in a really dark place, we hear about someone who just seems to have the best luck in the world? Why does this person have this fantastic life in which nothing seems to go wrong? And then the "I'm-not-good-enough" self-talk sets in. Worse, the jealousy sets in. Ugh. Negative energy. Very toxic.
I now realize that as "perfect" as someone else's life may seem, it's not fair or healthy to compare myself to that image of perfection. Because I only see that person's outsides. And we all want to project our "outsides" as wonderful and great. Even if we sometimes don't feel that way inside. It's like having our photograph taken - we always want to project our best smile to others; we don't have our photo taken while we are sad or angry, do we? So that person, who seems, on the outside, to have such a perfect, amazing, happy life, may very well have some pain on the inside.
It's not that I'm celebrating the fact that the other person may be hurting and that makes me feel better. It's just a relief to let go of that unrealistic perception, that external image of someone else's perfection. It's a relief to realize that there's just no basis for comparison. The only thing we have in common is that we are each going through our own lives the best way we can.
What a relief to let go of all that negative energy that weighs us down.
So I've learned to stop comparing my insides to someone else's outsides. Because we all carve our own path, and each path is unique and special. Because my life, and your life--for all its joy and pain--is no less amazing.