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This is perhaps one of the most tempting, most common, most divisive and most ineffective mental habits that I see in myself as well as in others. It happens so subtlety and yet so consistently that I do not even realize that it is happening. When I stoop to this, my thoughts range on a continuum from superiority to inferiority: Superiority appears for people like this-“I am smarter than him, I make more money than she does, I am more handsome than he is, I am prettier than she is” or one of our all time favorites; “I may have put on a few pounds, but I am not as fat as she is.”  

 Inferiority is just as conventional: “He is taller than me, she wears nicer clothes, has bigger breasts or drives a fancier car than I do.” We gage who we are, how we feel about ourselves and how well we have “done” in our lives, our loves or our successes by constant comparison to others.  

  Superiority builds a pseudo or false self esteem by comparing myself favorably with someone else who is not doing as well as I am. I feel “up” about who I am, whom I married or how much money I earn by looking “down” on others. 

  Inferiority deeply stamps in my mind a poor self worth by comparing my unfavorable characteristics with another person whom I pick out as something I am NOT. If only I was as good, as cute, as smart, or had as impressive of a new smart phone as he has, I would …..maybe….accept myself. Probably not!!!

  Here is a better way; compare yourself to yourself and not to others. Do your very very best, but do not judge your success, your value or most of anything about yourself in contrast with what others do or don’t do. It will take great courage and practice in your thinking to reduce and eventually eliminate the toxic comparison game. However, it is worth the positive and accurate assessment of yourself when you evaluate your efforts, your scores, or your waistline NOT by the other people on this planet, but by how well YOU have achieved your best. 

  Set your goals according to your standards or your potential and not always by what someone else is doing or has done/ not done. You can learn to build a healthier self and finally give your brain a much needed rest from the obsessive and irrational comparison game. Soon, you may very well be glad that you did.

    Can I change? Can I break out of my personal habits, sometimes negative habits that seem to be so hard to alter? Can my partner and I change the patterns in our relationship or our marriage that just drive me crazy? Yes, yes, and finally yes!!!!     Everyday, in my therapy office, I see people who struggle with these difficult questions. They do not need simple answers or unfeeling advice. They need hope that they can change; Hope that their lives, individual and relational, can get out of the “same old, same old” rutted grind. People need hope that with “effort and adjustments”, their lives could be fulfilling and bright. 

   In the last decade, we have new evidence that our brains are better described as plastic than iron. Plastic is moldable, flexible and able to be moved into a new form. Iron is highly resistant to any change or any new form. In the past, we did not have consistent hope that behaviors, cognitions (thinking patterns), and relationships could change. But now, we have neurological evidence that our brains can be rewired and changed. While it is not easy to resist our old choices, our deeply felt emotions or our patterns that feel like addictions, it can and does happen. Old engrained patterns can be located, tackled and gradually reworked and rewired. 

  You can change! We have powerful evidence that you can change in your actions, your attitudes and your relationships. YOU CAN REALLY CHANGE! A changed brain and a new life is at your doorstep. It is time for you to open the door!