The Comparing Mind

Melissa and JJ talk about how we compare ourselves not just to other people and outside situations, but we also compare and contrast against a fantasy version of us that we have created. How does that help or hurt us?

February 16, 2021
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Melissa Albers  0:00  
Hey everyone, you are listening to the self awareness journey podcast. This little banter is about a car ride long and features your hosts, JJ Parker, and Melissa Albers. JJ owns a tech company. And Melissa has been a coach working with influencers for the last 18 years. So JJ, I want to talk to you today about comparison. I

JJ Parker  0:25  
do some shopping. Why do I want a blue shirt or the red shirt like that?

Melissa Albers  0:31  
Both plaid. No, I started this pie or not this podcast, but I was doing the meditation journey that they had on the 10% happier app. So for the first of the year, they did this challenge this 21 Day Challenge through the month of January. And one of the meditations was on comparison. And I was like, oh, my goodness, I want to talk about this in our podcast, because Dan Harris, from the 10%, happier app and designer of the same name, starts each one of these meditations with just like a one or two minute blip about what the meditation is about. And then there's like 10 minutes of meditation. And in this particular case,

JJ Parker  1:17  
before we jump into that, yeah. Before we jump into that, did you make it through all 21 days of meditation? Everyone wants to know,

Melissa Albers  1:25  
I did. Not. Not all in order, though, I missed one or two days, but they don't care. Like as long as you still back. In fact, they haven't touched meditation since Don't be ridiculous.

JJ Parker  1:42  
I'm still working on completing a meditation challenge from three years ago.

Melissa Albers  1:46  
I'm almost done should be just about died. That sounds about right. But I love this, because he said, you know, the human mind naturally compares everything. But comparison is the thief of joy. And I was like, Whoa, comparison is the thief of joy.

JJ Parker  2:08  
Interesting. And so, yeah, that takes a little bit of thinking to get your brain around. Right.

Melissa Albers  2:15  
Yeah. And so I started thinking,

JJ Parker  2:17  
I mean, it maybe struck you pretty fast. To me, I think like, like, that's a really interesting concept.

Melissa Albers  2:23  
Well, I think I think, I think that's really, really true. And then he went on to just say, a couple of examples, and I was like, oh, wow, I totally get that. You know, we compare ourselves to other people. obvious. That's like an obviously when you say comparison is the thief of joy. You know, I just naturally care

JJ Parker  2:43  
about keeping up with the neighbors sad. Oh, yeah, stuff. Stuff like that.

Melissa Albers  2:49  
Yeah. Yeah. Do they have the sick co workers? Yeah,

Unknown Speaker  2:51  
like, Yep.

Melissa Albers  2:52  
Yep. Is that person as good as me? Am I better than do I dress as cool as am I as articulate as Do I have a better job then? And those comparisons are harsh and hard. And we do those all the time. But I think some of the other ones then that he started to list were even more interesting and a little deeper. Such as comparing yourself to your younger you.

JJ Parker  3:24  
Oh, that's interesting. Yeah. Like, I'm not as strong. I'm not as quick. I'm not as fit or whatever. Right? Yeah.

Melissa Albers  3:35  
Like how many middle aged people do you know? that talk about getting down to the weight. They were in high school, just as an example. I've heard so many people over the years say that. And, and I and it's because there's this big comparison going on.

JJ Parker  3:58  
Yeah. Which isn't even like a realistic thing. No, but you're right. People do it all the time. Yeah, yeah.

Melissa Albers  4:07  
Yeah. And I just think like, like for me, and so I started thinking about it in in reference to joy. And how does comparison feel? Because comparison is an act that you're doing in your brain?

JJ Parker  4:20  
Huh? Yeah. I have one other thought you were going through a list? Yeah, I read my own. Oh, like list of like, compare things I might compare myself to

Melissa Albers  4:30  
hell. Let's hear him.

JJ Parker  4:33  
Well, the other thing that I compare myself to is I'm expected version of myself.

Melissa Albers  4:46  

JJ Parker  4:47  
like, or an affected or expected future version? Like you're saying, like a lot of people compare themselves to a past version of themselves. Yeah. I seem to Like I have this vision of what I think things should be like for me in the future. And I actually end up comparing myself against that sort of like, I guess, fantasy version of my future self. And like, Am I on track on that? Yeah, right. No, I'm not because that's our mostly ridiculous vision. But that's that. I don't know. Maybe other people have that too. Like, I'm not a past self, but like a future self.

Melissa Albers  5:33  
Yeah. Or certainly, like, even if we take a timeline out of it, just a different version of us period.

JJ Parker  5:42  
Oh, yeah. Like a whole different life reality or something. Right.

Melissa Albers  5:46  
Right. Like just Yeah, like, I'm not where I am supposed to be. I am not what I am supposed to be. And that is I

JJ Parker  5:55  
know, I should be farther along in my career. I should be married. I should have. I should? I don't know. I should have retirement. have done? Yeah. Yeah.

Melissa Albers  6:04  
I so I think it's really interesting. Because like, how does that happen? How do we get into these mind states where we, because I actually think that when we have that kind of idea that we're not what we're supposed to be that the comparing mind is, is snapping back and forth all the time, not just on the weekend, when you're washing out, washing your truck, or whatever. You know, I think I think we spend a lot of time in our heads fantasizing about scenarios that we are or we are involved in with the expectation that it should be something else.

JJ Parker  6:47  
I've noticed that there's a lot of people even compare, yeah, like, it should be something else. This scenario should be something else, when the scenario they're in isn't actually bad in any way. They just is. Yeah, it's like, a more. I don't wanna say it's like, what you what are you complaining about? But it's just like comparing mine is going all the time, almost whether you're in a good scenario or a bad scenario, right? It's almost like a force. Yeah. Vice of force to just make you Yeah, somehow feel bad. Yeah, I can't help. Why is that? Why does that exist in your mind? And oh, like, what reason? Does this exist? Like?

Melissa Albers  7:37  
Yeah, like, but it can happen with absolutely everything I'm putting on these shoes. And then you compare Oh, boy, remember, these shoes used to look so they don't really look nice anymore? Do they still look nice? Well, I don't know. I don't really know. Like, you know, I know some people whose shoes never look like this. Like, I look like I haven't gotten a new pair of shoes. Well, of course, I'm a shoe person. So we know that that's not true. But But I mean, I think it happens on the most mundane of other people. But I think that happens in the most mundane of topics, but I think unaware, it's very damaging to how we feel. It can be it can be, well, maybe it's not always damaging. Maybe it's maybe it's actually healthy in some regards, but overuse becomes a liability.

JJ Parker  8:21  
Yeah, so let's try to break that down a little bit. Just a little bit enough. In a site, I'll say a scientific way, we're not all. But once again, like I I'm really interested to think about, like, we've talked about how a lot of the way our brain works is, has been tuned to a different way of living than we do now. Right, right. In our modern society, where we have, we have safety, we have shelter, we have food. We they there's these like, basic survival things that just don't apply anymore. Right. What What do you think the comparing mind did for humans that were like living in tribes in the woods? Right? Wait, if it's a survival thing, like I really think a lot of the parts of our brain that we struggle with today are parts that were like for survival millions of years ago. And and there's so with us so like, what did compare in mind do? How did comparing might help humans survive? Yeah, yes. Yeah. before modern society?

Melissa Albers  9:40  
Yeah, absolutely. Because you know, that it kept them alive. Right. So what

JJ Parker  9:45  
what, like, Why? What looks? Do you have any Can you think of any reason why comparing mind would have been useful for early humans?

Melissa Albers  9:55  
Absolutely. Actually, it isn't even just early humans. So like, like foraging in the Compare this plant with that plant, if you eat that plant, you'll die. If you eat this plant, you will survive and thrive because it has all these great things in it. But I think having a

JJ Parker  10:15  
think about that,

Melissa Albers  10:16  
even to the place of where you where you pitch your camp for the night. You if you compare yourself, put yourself in a big open space, then you are vulnerable. If you put yourself in a spot where you are tucked away, you will be safer. I mean, I think there's all sorts of natural places. And quite honestly, there's still a lot of safety decisions that we make today based on comparison.

JJ Parker  10:43  
Yeah, well, where you went was I'd say, like, comparison of external things.

Melissa Albers  10:51  

JJ Parker  10:52  
That's right. You're comparing, like, let's compare this plant with that plant. Let's compare this location for camp with that location. Let's compare yo x ternal. circumstances. I think where we started was, we were comparing internal things. Right? Yeah, like ourself against a different version of ourselves. Right. Yeah. Which I think is an interesting line to cross. Right.

Unknown Speaker  11:21  
Right. And,

JJ Parker  11:22  
and it could be that the comparing mind is, is very useful in comparing external things, right. But it might not be very useful in comparing internal things.

Melissa Albers  11:40  
So that's interesting, because you know, where I started going, as you were saying those things, I was feeling like there's a continuum for everything, whether it's external or internal, because even external comparison can be helpful. But I can't help but think that if it's used too much, or in an unhealthy way that it becomes not helpful, not good for someone, like just fit physically, physically, if you just take the external, like, I, if my body is kept at a certain level of health, I'll feel better, I'll live longer. And so therefore, I need to make choices to keep it at this certain level. But then an overused is, well, if this is good, then it could be even more that. So I'm not going to eat I'm not going to do these things. Because if I'm thinner, or if I'm this or that, so I feel like even with the external it can go in a direction that's not that can be damaging.

JJ Parker  12:45  
Yeah. Yeah, I'd written down like, just like, the different the different things that we compare, like, I was thinking about, like, I wrote physical like your self physical. how I look, maybe Yeah. My, my like, body, I wrote mental, like comparing myself if I'm smart, or not smart, or smarter than that person, or that, you know, I'm emotional. Like, you compare yourself like, Am I happier than that person? Is that person happier than me? Right? Are they more emotionally stable than me? You know, I? Which is interesting. Yeah. No environmental, right. Like it. And that, to me, that's almost like, the physical things around me. Like, is my is my car nicer? Is my house bigger? Right? Right. Yeah. But like, what do all of those compare, I was just trying to really get to like, what do all of those comparisons lead to? Like? Like, they all seem to be pointing in some similar direction? Like, if I'm fit, if I'm smart, if I'm happy, and if I have the biggest house? Then what? Huh? Right. Like,

Melissa Albers  14:01  
yeah, then I successful or I am significant, or whatever. Right? Right.

JJ Parker  14:09  
Yeah. Like, what is the end? Like? What is the end goal is that that's like an ego feeding thing or something. I, I find that really fascinating. Like, yeah, if I'm constantly comparing, and trying to be better than everybody in whatever thing I think is important, which is obviously different for everybody. But if you feel like you get to the top of that heap bed, why?

Melissa Albers  14:33  
I don't ever think if you spent your time in constant comparison there, I don't think you're ever there. So maybe, maybe it isn't even a maybe it isn't even an end result. Maybe it's a difference between awareness. The difference between your own awareness about striving and driving?

JJ Parker  14:57  
Yeah, well, now we're getting somewhere

Melissa Albers  14:59  
now. getting somewhere. And and I can't help but this is so funny, but it is absolutely the truth. I can't help but think that this is exactly the actor self, versus the authentic self, and the self awareness journey right here. Because the moment we feel up in a different way, it's coming up in a different way. It's like I, I need to act a certain way, because I'm comparing myself to these outcomes, whether they be my own outcomes or someone else's, or you know, what things look like on the outside, whatever the case may be. And then the emotional reaction that happens in that constant state of comparison, because I think that comparison happens mentally, but there has to be emotional responses that are happening all the time to that level of thinking.

JJ Parker  15:52  
Yeah. Do you? Like some of my favorite people to hang out with? don't give a shit about any of that stuff. You know what I mean? Do you mean you don't have these people in your life, right? They don't care. They don't care about their physical fitness, or they are smarter than they don't care. They just don't care at all.

Melissa Albers  16:16  
I love that.

JJ Parker  16:19  
Yeah, you try to prompt them to care a little bit, and then they just like, throw off more not caring. And you're like, Oh, my God, that's so awesome. I want to live like that. I want to live in this. Like, you know, it's like the dude from The Big Lebowski. Right? Just doesn't care. And it's got such good energy.

Melissa Albers  16:40  
Oh, that is so funny. You know, I as you were just saying that, and, you know, kind of giving that visual. I was right back to this experience that happened. A couple summers ago, I was at a restaurant having lunch with a client. And she's a little more on the not shy, but a little more on the proper side. Like she's a little more cautious. And she just always is wanting people to feel safe. And you know, she's she's just very kind. And we're outside on the corner. We were at a champs outdoor eating area. And all of a sudden, this horn started this car came squealing through the intersection. And this voice yelled, have a great day. Hong Kong rock, and her whole face turned purple. And I started laughing I'm like cheese, that guy's happy. And she said, that's my husband. She said that is my husband. He does that stuff all the time. Because he knows it makes me want to die. And he doesn't care. So it and he's, you know, I think that is so funny. And then she went on in a rare moment of opening, you know, she went on to tell all these stories about how he does things publicly. And, and he's a really, he's a pilot, like, he's a very, like, he looks like this really buttoned down person. But he simply doesn't care. He doesn't care what the social norm is. And he likes to have fun with that. And and it's exactly that you just love someone that's willing to go there.

JJ Parker  18:26  
Yeah, so that's pretty interesting. Like, we have stories about people who, who seem to not have much comparing mind or at least if they do they do. It's certainly not like on their sleeve. Right. Now we're kind of drawn to those people, right? yet we're doing the thing we're doing comparing ourselves all the time. Yeah. And, and, and kind of like removing, like you said, like, removing joy.

Melissa Albers  18:58  
Yes. Yeah. Because I just I, it's crazy. It is. I wonder if I wonder if having? Well, I don't I won't I don't wonder I guess I kind of feel like having awareness about the things that I compare myself to. I think spending a little time in this conversation has been really interesting for me, because I'm starting to think about what are the things that I compare myself to, you know, and and like, I compare my weight to what I did when I was younger, I compare my ability to communicate and connect with people like that's a big thing for me. I compare myself to when I was younger. I compare my financial state to like in my company, what did my company do last year? What should it do this year? What's been the 10 year average? You know, how am I working with my business partners like my CPA like I'm constantly in comparison around that As a way to sort of keep me on the rails. My Yeah, proverbial fake rails. Oh, by the way,

JJ Parker  20:06  
but comparing mind I think loves numbers and data too.

Melissa Albers  20:11  
Yeah, I think the comparing mine loves that. And for a lot of

JJ Parker  20:16  
think that comparing mind, comparing mind probably built Excel. Right? Yeah, spreadsheets,

Melissa Albers  20:24  
Gantt charts.

JJ Parker  20:25  
You compare your mind?

Melissa Albers  20:28  
Yeah. So but but is it funny because as I'm just sitting here thinking, I'm like, well, that some of that doesn't bother me. Some of that actually, I find kind of like you were saying, like, it's that future state. Like, some of that feels good to me. Like, I like a little bit of that, to keep me motivated. And to keep me feeling like I'm doing what I want to do. Like, I'm being successful. I'm being significant. Yeah. And then there are some things, though, that based on my emotional state, or like, we did a podcast recently about writing a book and the feeling of fear of not met, you know, like, that wasn't a good feeling for me. And so, but there was this comparison happening in there for me, that I wasn't feeling good about. And that was not a helpful place to be. So it seems like there's obviously talks about

JJ Parker  21:22  
you talking about the comparison, like how other people feel like your peers. Yeah. Other people in your circles? write books. Yeah. And you should write a book too.

Melissa Albers  21:31  
Yes. And and that comparison doesn't feel good. Right? It that part doesn't feel good. So I think it's just really interesting to, you know, kind of do your own inventory and see, what are the things that you find your the comparison mind talking to you about? In your own being?

JJ Parker  21:53  
Yeah, you're saying comparison mind, like, one of the tenants of Buddhism is and meditation is understanding the comparing mind. Yeah, right.

Melissa Albers  22:04  
And oh, that's such a good call out.

JJ Parker  22:08  
Right, one of the thing with Buddhist philosophy is to help end human suffering. And the source of that suffering is your internal dialogue, basically. And one of the, the key parts of that internal dialogue is controlling your comparing mind. Right? Because it's firing all the time, whether you want it to or not, it just fires, right. It's like, you don't have really a lot of control over it.

Melissa Albers  22:44  

JJ Parker  22:44  
So when you started with your, you started the podcast talking about your meditation practice, right, and the 10%, happier app and the teaching about comparing mine. That was probably rooted in the idea if, if you meditate, and if you really sit and analyze your thoughts, right, you're gonna realize that a lot of the thoughts that just naturally come up for you are in this bucket of comparing

Melissa Albers  23:16  
Yes, absolutely. Good.

JJ Parker  23:21  
If you recognize that they come up, right? It doesn't mean that they're true. It doesn't mean that you have to act on them. Yo, like thoughts come up all the time that are completely not true. So part of that meditation practices, right is realizing like, hey, wait, my brains firing all sorts of random stuff all the time, half of its junk. And not taking take is so real. And a lot of this comparing stuff. Is that noise? Right? I feel like a lot of the comparing stuff is just the noise that our brain generates.

Melissa Albers  23:55  
Yeah, that static

JJ Parker  23:56  
we can with a little bit. Yeah, with a little bit of training. just disregard. Yeah, we can choose to just disregard those. You know, those import like those thoughts. They're not useful today.

Melissa Albers  24:09  
Right. Yeah, that is so good. That is so good.

JJ Parker  24:14  
Well, I think this is a pretty interesting topic. Me too. I think everyone should fit. I really think everyone should sit down. And yeah, we always say this, take it and worry. But this just sit and think about what you're comparing yourself to. Yeah. And if it's useful, right, if it's useful, keep doing it. If it's not useful, just drop it and just realize that your brain wants to compare all of the time because it's a that's like a basic survival instinct. And it's going to compare all sorts of crazy stuff all the time. And maybe just think about if you want to listen to those or not, like apps, maybe some of those are irrelevant. You just discard those thoughts. Yeah,

Melissa Albers  24:55  
absolutely. We hope that you've enjoyed today's episode. Our mission is to help people become happier and more effective by gaining insight into their own thoughts and feelings. We'd love your support. First, share this podcast with anyone you think might enjoy it. Second, leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast site. This helps others discover the podcast so we can reach more people. And third, sign up for our newsletter at the self awareness journey.com. This will help us communicate better with you and build our community. Thank you so much for joining us in the self awareness journey. We'll see you next week.

Discussed in this episode

Let's get real

Meet your guides

JJ Parker

JJ Parker is a serial entrepreneur passionate about building creative strategy, efficient operations, and unique marketing perspectives. Parker got his start as a student at The Minneapolis Institute of Art, and soon after launched his first company Tightrope Media Systems (TRMS) with a high school buddy in 1997.

Melissa Albers

Melissa is passionate about developing people’s self-awareness and ability
to positively interact with others. She focuses on the importance of
building influence, and highlights the most important relationship we have
is with self first. Ms. Albers speaks on leadership and self-awareness, and
has shared the stage with John Maxwell (Leadership Author and Speaker),
Lee Cockerell (Exec VP of Disney) and Les Brown (Motivational Speaker) to
name a few.

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