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Dear Melody: How Can I Stop Comparing Myself to My Friends?

“Monthly Matters with Melody” is a monthly advice column by Dr. Melody Moore, a clinical psychologist, yoga instructor and the founder of the Embody Love Movement Foundation. Her foundation is a non-profit whose mission is to empower girls and women to celebrate their inner beauty, commit to kindness and contribute to meaningful change in the world. Dr. Moore is a social entrepreneur who trains facilitators on how to teach programs to prevent negative body image and remind girls and women of their inherent worth. Her work has been featured in the books Yoga and Body Image and Yoga and Eating Disorders: Ancient Healing for Modern Illness, as well as in Yoga Journal, Yoga International and Origin Magazine.

I feel so behind in life. What tips can you give me to help me stop comparing myself to my friends?

Theodore Roosevelt, who famously stated, "comparison is the thief of joy," felt the same way you do. Your word "behind" says so much about what may be making you feel badly about yourself. I have to ask: Behind what? Behind whom? If you're like most people, then your answer will be something like "my friends that already have jobs, or are already through recovery, or are already making a certain amount of money, or are already in relationships!" 

There really is no end to the ways in which we can measure ourselves up against where we think we should be. Based on who is around us and what we imagine they have created for themselves, it's easy to spin ourselves into a state of not-good-enough. Here is the truth: there is no such thing as "behind." There is only now. There is only where you are, in this moment. 

Every one of us is participating in the classroom of life. Whether or not we are present in class, whether or not we are aware that we are being offered lessons that are catered specifically to us, whether or not we see our circumstances as teachers, life is giving us an individualized curriculum. Each of us has our own narrative to write and each of us has our own legacy to leave. 

There is not a path for all of us, there is a path for each of us. And the joy of life, the real juice of living, is that each of us has the privilege to be ourselves. So when we compare ourselves to others, we are giving up our potential to inhabit our own lives fully in exchange for being a second-rate version of someone else. Or, worse yet, we abandon our capacity to contribute to the world in the way that we are uniquely designed to do because we are convinced that we aren't as good as someone else. How could anyone else be better at being you than you?

My tip for you is to remember that there is no timeline on life. You may find and leave and return to recovery, academia, relationships, sobriety, career, hobbies and goals. Life is not about catching up to someone else or trying to keep up with a schedule you have created for yourself. It's about being present in each moment so that you can be true to yourself. Happiness is not found by checking off the boxes of graduation, marriage and career success. Happiness is found by being grateful, forgiving and letting go of trying to control what is not yours to dictate. So many of the outcomes in life are not up to you, and you will continue to create frustration for yourself by trying to force what isn't yours into going your way. 

So try to keep your eyes in your own lane, so to speak. You are running a different race than everyone else is, one that has never been run before and one where the only competitor is the part of you that is trying to sabotage you being able to see that you are already winning. Even if you feel like you are failing, you are still better than anyone else at being you, and at living your life. 

Try to listen to your body for signals of how you are feeling, and try to honor those feelings. Try to be happy for the people around you when they find joy. Try to wish the best for others. Most of all, try to forgive yourself for any of the ways that you feel you have contributed to your being "behind" or lacking. In the right here, right now, present moment, the moment where the only thing you can control is you, you already are enough.