What's On the Other Side of Comparison

A brown-haired woman sits in a coffee shop.

A tall woman walks in the door. Immediately, the brown-haired woman compares herself to the tall one.

She’s prettier than I am, the brown-haired woman thinks. She has sharper style than I do. I bet I’m a better conversationalist than she is, though. And that’s what matters. Brains. And the size of your heart. Pretty fades, but brai-

The brown-haired woman catches herself. The tall woman has been in her life for the time it takes to unwrap a peppermint. But the brown-haired woman is trapped in measuring her whole 34 years of life and worth against her.

The tall woman orders a coffee. The brown-haired woman thinks about something she read recently - was it Audre Lorde? - we compare, then we differentiate, then we make a hierarchy. It is instant, unthinking. It leaves a person feeling that she or he is on higher, lower, but never level ground with another.

The tall woman leaves the coffee shop. The brown-haired woman wishes her well. She hasn’t stopped comparing herself; it will take a long time to unravel that habit. But she knows, more in her heart than in her head, that it doesn’t have to be like this. The world is spacious enough for every life to radiate, gleam; it’s a truth that’s pummeled out of kids from their early days. But all the culture’s conditioning can’t pummel the true out of truth.

The brown-haired woman leans back in her chair. She has spent much of her 34 years comparing, measuring, yard-sticking herself against others. What if she redistributed some of that time towards radiating? And elevating the radiance of others? What if she caught herself before she got hijacked by comparison?

She knows this will be demanding. The instinct towards our collective radiance has been pummeled out of her - probably the tall woman, every woman, every man - since childhood. But the brown-haired woman knows, more in her heart than in her head, that that’s where freedom is. On the other side of comparison.

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