Comparison is the thief of joy

“I wish I was more like her.” “She only went to treatment x times, why am I still here?” “I’m sicker than you because xyz.” “I wish I could go back to how I looked 6 years ago, before starting recovery.” “Is he thinner than me?” “You must be bulimic right? You don’t look like most anorexics.” “Why is her meal plan smaller?” “Why can’t I eat like him?” “I’m eating better to make up for yesterday.” “I’m the smallest/largest person in this whole place.” “What if I end up like chronic ED patient x?” “I’ve been to more/less treatment centers than everyone else.” “Why is her weight so much less/more than mine?” “My life isn’t tragic enough for me to end up here.” “I should be in such a different place than I am now.”

To these thoughts and many more I’ve had/heard: SHUT (the fuck) UP!!!

Eating disorder recovery is tough shit. Believe it or not, comparing ourselves to our past, where we “should” be, other people’s body/recovery/”sickness”/etc, on and on and on is NOT healthy. In fact, it really just keeps you in that lovely ED mindset. These disorders love comparison. They live for it. Letting go of comparison is not easy but I believe its so essential to recovery.

I’m a work in progress in this area, but I want to share some steps I have taken to help inspire anyone else facing it as well.

  1. Focus on the present moment. Seems obvious I guess but also, it makes a whole lot of sense. Spending your time worried too much on the past or future takes away from where you are in that very moment. Does it really get you anywhere other than stuck in various comparisons?
  2. Get self-centered. Sounds weird, I know. Technically all recovery should be centered on YOU, but this especially. If you put on blinders and try not to worry so much about where other people are, what they’re doing, how they look, etc, then you have more time to worry about yourself. You should be our own priority when it comes down to it.
  3. Stop shoulding on yourself. This could be a whole post for another day, but it so relates here. The second you mutter should or its cousins could and would you have a comparison that most likely is demeaning. Don’t even consider them part of your vocabulary.
  4. Let go of expectations. Expectations aren’t always a good thing. When they’re self-directed it can cause plenty of negative thoughts if not met. Especially in recovery our expectations aren’t always feasible or realistic. Slipping, relapse, shitty days, and a million other things get in the way. That being said, throw your expectations out the window! That way you will find neither disappointment nor excitement but deal with and accept everything as it comes.
  5. Find the good (and bad) in where you are now. Most of the time, comparisons come because you feel inadequate or superior in some way. If you take a second to evaluate where you are in that moment, listing both the good an bad, it can help prevent any comparative talk.
  6. Take a deep breath, repeat after me, tell the thought to go away. As you begin to have these thoughts, you can still stop them! First, breathe, and just breathe, or a bit. Next, repeat the mantra “comparison is the thief of joy.” Silly, yes, but saying something enough times at least partially makes them true. And finally, tell that thought to shut up (or whatever language you choose)!

*this post dedicated to my friend who is currently in the hospital*

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