Comparisonitis. Is it the scourge of our modern age?
Previous generations had to worry about scurvy, leprosy and smallpox, and instead we are haunted by an unnatural compulsion to incessantly compare ourselves against others people’s social media profiles, relationships, appearance, families, career success and [insert any other thing].
I don’t mean to be flippant about the experiences of previous generations, and I know that comparing ourselves to others doesn’t actually lead to death or social banishment, but sometimes the feelings it generates do feel very real and very physically scary.
It’s a problem… and I blame patriarchy.
As I talk about in my new book The Patriarchy Illusion: A Down-to-Earth Guide to Spiritual Feminism, while ‘patriarchy’ also denotes males as the head of the family and male inheritance systems, I refer to patriarchy in this context to mean a basic system in which men are thought of as superior to women. And even deeper than that, due to this illusionary inequality between men and women, patriarchy is also a paradigm that normalises hierarchy generally.
In this way, we can think of patriarchy as having a hierarchical dynamic, and as having a set of hierarchical values that can cause us to (unknowingly) think and behave in certain ways. So, while many people tend to blame social media as the root cause of our rampant comparisonitis, I believe that social media is in actual fact shining a gigantic spotlight on an existing (and previously somewhat hidden) force.
If we look at patriarchy as a paradigm and a hierarchical way of seeing the world, from an energetic perspective, it works to promote and reinforce a sense of inequality, needless competition, and unease between us all. It also encourages us to unconsciously link our worth with our place on a real or imagined hierarchy, and to therefore try to race ‘to the top’... wherever that is.
But often we find that no matter how much we try or how high we climb, we will never get ‘there’; there's always someone further up the ladder than us on something. In fact, every hierarchy is a mirage: once we get to the top, we simply start at the bottom of another one. No wonder we can feel anxious, endlessly comparing, and never good enough!
So, what can we do about it? Well, the good news is that we can all learn to dismantle our inner patriarchy. In fact, learning how to free ourselves from our internalised patriarchy is what my new book, The Patriarchy Illusion: A Down-to-Earth Guide to Spiritual Feminism, is all about.
Of course, patriarchy is still out there, in the sense that it exists externally in the legal system, the economic system, the political system, in our cultural and social norms… basically in every conceivable aspect of our society. And we should definitely continue to work to change discriminatory structures, laws, misogyny, and sexist cultural norms externally.
But as an additional piece to the feminist puzzle, I believe that patriarchy also exists internally within us. It is a very, very old paradigm that - unbeknown to us - has unfortunately infiltrated every aspect of our being. And I have come to realise that there will be no real and lasting change unless we also do the inner work on our inner hierarchies and patriarchal mindsets, as well as continuing to make changes externally. After all, as within - so without. As a former engineer, I like to think of it as ‘de-engineering’ patriarchy in a new way.
So, next time you get caught up in a comparisonitis snare, remember that it might just be your internalised patriarchy trying to tell you something. Take a breath, check in with yourself, and ask:
Are you comparing yourself against others on a hierarchical scale of some kind?
Can you step off this hierarchy and celebrate yourself instead, regardless of the various activities of the other people all around you?
Can you reconnect with the natural sense of ease you may have felt as child - before society starting telling you what you needed to do and achieve in order to be 'better'?
Let’s rise above our comparisonitis and internalised patriarchy, together.
My new book, The Patriarchy Illusion: A Down-to-Earth Guide to Spiritual Feminism, is out now!