Comparing Our Insides With Other People’s Outsides Doesn’t Work

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2015 Nancy Virden

photo-24770318-a-frightened-womanYesterday I manned (ok, womanned) a table at a craft fair where my mission was primarily to meet and love people and secondly to sell my books. This is always my goal when I offer my story as a speaker or in written form, and the result is that I hear more than most people do.

Simply because the theme of what I write is overcoming difficult emotions, strangers will approach me and whisper their secrets. Just in the last two weeks I heard five such stories, each with a common thread – self-blame.

We All Make Unfair Comparisons

Familiar insecurities and self-doubt were challenges for me to overcome for six hours and after the show. Then this observation came to me. All these people look content until they speak. I most likely look content. No one sees a person’s inside while viewing only the

We tend to be at least somewhat aware of how we feel, and what we think. We judge ourselves based on these two factors. We believe we must be losers (or winners) based on what goes on inside.

A young man once said to me, “I must be a beast to have such thoughts.” In reality, he is normal and perhaps in a better spot because of his willingness to admit his issues. Now he is receiving professional help.

We look at the outsides of other people. He is so successful, she is so competent, her personality is fun, his ability to overcome is amazing, their marriage is perfect... and so on. We compare what we see to how we perceive what cannot be seen in us. Our special vision into our intricacies is much less superficial than our overview of other people.

We Deserve a Break Today

It is posphoto-24775473-listening-earsible to break away from this typical process. The most efficient means I have discovered is to listen to the insides of people.

Ask “how are you?” and wait for an answer. Stay present instead of rushing to move on.  This is how to discover that everyone is normal. Each one is in some struggle. Each one has some little victory of which to be proud.

By validating the worth of other people’s experiences, we can learn to share our own.

That’s what will improve our vision. Unhelpful comparisons can stop.


Comments are always welcome.  NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

*pictures from

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