Tending to the Pain of Comparison, Scarcity, and Shame
Last week started out kinda crappy. I was in a lot of physical pain and was making brave choices about my health care. Unfortunately, my doctor’s office was not returning calls about the medication my physical therapist wanted me on. The pain plus the frustration of provider run-around wore me down. I cancelled some plans and tried to get a handle on my symptoms. I started looking at the people around me- the ones without PTSD. The ones without chronic pain. I thought of all the things I could do if I was like them. If I was normal. And guess what? I soon felt the pangs of comparison, scarcity, and shame.
When we decide to show up and be brave, for instance, trying a new health treatment, or setting boundaries with friends, we’re stepping into an arena. Brené Brown says comparison, scarcity, and shame always show up in the arena. We’re going to be seen, and we’re going to be judged (mostly by ourselves).
It’s honest to say life sucks sometimes. It’s natural to dwell on what hurts. It’s normal to compare ourselves to others. To sometimes feel we are not good enough is unavoidable. It’s commendable to want a better life, and valid to feel frustrated while working to create one.
It’s necessary to feel any and all hard feelings that arise when we’re doing brave arena work. Our feelings exist to alert us to our needs, and to push us, not always gently, toward healing. It isn’t always easy to find the needs beneath our feelings, but when it comes to tending to the pain of comparison, scarcity, and shame, I have a plan-
- I put my hand on my heart and say, “this is really hard.” This act of self-compassion soothes the sting of comparison.
- I adjust my focus to look for the good in my life. I realize I’m never low on love, there’s always a hand to hold, and I often laugh so hard that I cry. This practice of gratitude eases the perception of scarcity.
- I reach out to a trusted friend and speak my shame feelings. My friend says, “me too,” and empathy shrinks my shame.
As we live our brave lives, we will encounter difficult feelings. Arena work is intimidating and vulnerable, but it’s what we need to do if we’re in the business of chasing dreams like trauma recovery, or pain management. Knowing I can tend to my painful feelings is empowering. When you encounter comparison, scarcity, and shame, I hope you’ll try the practices of self-compassion, gratitude, and empathy. Keep on, Resilience Rockstars. <3