Comparison can be a very dangerous thing. We look at someone and sigh to ourselves, “I wish I was that person. They seem so happy and well adjusted”. For many of us, looking at others from this perspective was a very old story. When we were growing up, we often came from very dysfunctional families. Perhaps one or both of our parents were alcoholics or addicts. Even if this wasn’t the case, many of our parents were rage-aholics, or troubled in other ways. As a result, there was often a lot of drama taking place in our homes. We often looked wistfully at some of our friends whose lives in our eyes resembled “Father Knows Best”. This view followed us into adulthood where we continued to see everyone as somehow more normal and better adjusted than us.
In recovery, we saw some of those so called “normal people” at our meetings. When they shared our mouths dropped. Those so called normal ones often told stories that made our hairs stand on end. It quickly became apparent that everyone had their bundle of pain. Some hid it better than others, but in the final analysis we were all on that journey called recovery.
Personal Reflection: Do I tend to romanticize about the “normal ones”?
12 steppers often suffer from the “less than” syndrome. Years and sometimes decades were spent walking around and comparing ourselves to others. For those of us who suffered from grandiosity, it was everyone else who came up short in our eyes. Far more common was our making comparisons with others and finding ourselves wanting. We would observe someone and say, “They’re so smart”, or “rich”, or “handsome”, or “beautiful”, or “talented”, or “lucky” or “so together”. I’m sure each of us could add to this list. Most of the time we were mixing apples and oranges. The assessment of ourselves was based on deep feelings from within us. The assessment of everyone else was based on the external persona presented by people we met. Although we didn’t know what was really going on in a person’s life, we presumed to know and draw conclusions about them.
One of the gifts of the program is that we really get to know people through attending meetings. People share openly and honestly about their lives. We begin to discover that people’s outsides often don’t reflect what is truly going on within. That “together” person is probably facing the same challenges we are.
Personal Reflection: How can I avoid the “less than” syndrome?
In the Western world we often define success by how many possessions we have, the cars we drive or the homes we live in. If we don’t have the latest version of the iPhone or the latest cut of suit, we are in some way flawed. We suffer from a disease of comparison. We look around us and measure our success stacked up against our family, friends and neighbors. For people suffering from addictive personalities, this can be extremely harmful. Generally speaking, when we make comparisons, we usually end up on the short end of the stick. Feelings of inadequacy only fuel our addictive tendencies. As they say in AA, “poor me, poor me, pour me a drink”. That “poor me” feeling is often generated by envy and jealousy of another’s “net worth”.
As we grow in recovery we begin to discover the true meaning of self-worth. It has nothing to do with the externals of wealth. With the blossoming of emotional sobriety we tap into what really matters in this life. Experiencing personal growth, conducting ourselves with integrity and helping others define our true worth.
Personal Reflection: how much do you focus on your net worth vs. your self-worth?