Autonomy, Being Human and the Detrimental Effects of Comparison

Human beings have a tendency to examine one another’s lives, and in doing so we often compare ourselves. There is a lot to learn from everybody and everything in this world. However, a lot of the time we neglect our own self in the process of learning. Comparisons are helpful in moderation but for the most part this process replicates a maze that has no end. 

In most cases, we have been accustomed to asking questions and being guided by authority figures from the moment we arrived into this world. We generally have the least amount of say in how we act during the early years of our lives, as parental figures are always there to direct us. There is no fault in the nature of this reality, however later in life, the reliance that we have on others results in a neglect of our own truth, and what we believe best serves our needs. 

More and more in recent times, this dependency on authority figures/comparisons continues into adulthood. If you look at your own life, contemplate what is really motivating your choices and decisions. A lot of the time we act out of fear or a false belief that it’s what we should do based on the insistence of advertising, cultural norms or authority figures. Teachers, peers, managers, status, money - the list goes on as to who or what is most commonly steering our lives.

The repercussion of living a life that essentially lacks autonomy is that we may struggle to be self aware and self motivated individuals, for we have consistently been motivated by outside sources throughout youth and beyond. We regularly act out of line with our authentic self, and just as often avoid taking actions that will allow us to thrive because the risk and unfamiliarity of a new situation feels too much for us to step into. In short, we look at what’s going around us and then try to make our world look like everybody else’s, whether it meets our needs or not. This is a recipe for disaster!

It’s easy to blame our past for our lack of satisfaction with the present, but this eventually becomes a tiring feat. Nonetheless, it is understandable why so many people adopt this approach; it allows us to remain relatively comfortable in our current situation despite it being negative for us in the long run. It provides an easy excuse to avoid having to endure the initial discomfort that accompanies the shifting and shaping of a life that ultimately is in accordance with your passions, beliefs and values. 

The models that we were raised with as impressionable children inevitably impact us later in life. Parental figures would offer praise if you did well, or send you to your room if you didn’t measure up to expectations. Now as adults, we look outside of ourselves for validation because it always came from outside sources (our parents) as we grew into our lives.

For example, we might unconsciously seek romantic relationships in order to feel valued and worthy because we never learned how to feel this on our own. We project our value and worth outward (expressing affection to a partner) in order for it to be reflected back to us (when a partner reciprocates the affection).

In reality, your value and worth always exists, regardless of what outside sources might say. When we fail to recognize this, we might find ourselves staying in relationships, jobs etc. that are unhealthy for us in the long run. We are merely there for the validation and safety that the situation/relationship provides, unaware that the love and security that we seek can be cultivated internally.

We live the majority of our life unconsciously (that’s often why we repeatedly end up in situations that we don’t enjoy!), acting in accordance with the beliefs and impressions that we have gathered throughout our lifetime, rather than with our authentic selves. The outside world is not something that we can ever fully control, and so it makes no sense to exhaust all of our efforts into making it look a certain way. On the other hand, internally, all that we see and know is exclusively our responsibility, and so working on ourselves is a great starting point for motivating our lives in a positive direction. Practices such as self enquiry, yoga and meditation all contribute to an expansion of consciousness, which allows you to live a life that cultivates your own well-being and unlock your highest potential.

It’s not easy to unlearn decades worth of unhelpful habits, and it’s certainly not always comfortable. Making your own decisions, honouring your authentic self and straying from comparison is a rewarding challenge to take on. Just remember that navigating the good along with the bad has always been an essential part of this journey we call “life”, whether we like it or not!

David Boland