How to Escape the "I Have it Harder Than You" Trap
Have you ever had a friend complain about her husband being gone for a week on a business trip while yours was deployed for a year? Have you ever felt like you and a coworker were equally pressed for time only to find out she was getting nine hours of sleep every night and you were fighting unsuccessfully for seven? Have you ever had someone decline an invitation because she was too busy that week, but then discover that she had free time to read in the afternoons?
To be honest with you, I can answer yes to all of the above questions. It’s not a pretty place to be, and it violates one of my guiding principles — keep my eyes on my own yoga mat. In yoga, and in life, it’s so easy to get caught up in the comparison game, and come away feeling dissatisfied with one’s place in life, with the inner eight-year-old screaming, “It’s not fair!”
Getting stuck in the “I have it harder than you” trap is a relationship destroyer. You start to lose perspective on the big picture of other people’s circumstances and obsess over that one aspect of their lives that you covet for yourself. Before you know it, obsession grows into resentment, and you really can’t have a good relationship with someone you resent.
Destroying relationships isn’t high on my priority list, and probably isn’t on your list of goals either. So, how do we learn to escape the trap?
Here’s the secret. As soon as you start to say, “I have it so much harder” to yourself, spend some time contemplating the trigger and what it tells you about what you’re missing in your life. How can you fill the things that are lacking back into your life?
Here’s an example of how the conversation with yourself can go. Turn it into a journaling exercise if you like.
What came up that made you feel like you have it harder than somebody else?
My teammate said she gets nine hours of sleep a night. That’s crazy! We’re both bursting with work assignments. It’s not fair that I’m getting less than seven hours of sleep a night.
Based on that feeling, what is missing in your life?
Adequate sleep. Getting less than seven hours of sleep a night is not a healthy habit.
How can you find more of what’s missing?
Be firm about going to bed on time. Plan ahead to get things ready for the next day, and don’t schedule activities or appointments that delay bedtime.
Once you’re able to admit that you’re missing something in your life and start working toward filling up that empty place, then you’ve successfully escaped from the “I have it harder than you” trap and you’re better positioned to intelligently nurture yourself, resulting in healthier habits and stronger relationships.
Have you recently thought that you have it harder than somebody else? What were you missing in your life?