Kitten, Cat or Lion?
I was always looking for a mentor to follow or a hero to save me. When I got lost, paid my bills late, forgot people’s birthdays and anniversaries, I always assumed that others didn’t make these normal mistakes. I thought they were all living perfect lives and I was stumbling from one disaster to the next. This problem was particularly acute with bosses. I would always assume they had never made the foolish mistakes that I made, so I tried to hide my mistakes whenever possible.
I also did this with most of the men I dated. I would imagine that they were superhuman, perfect breadwinners, patient, sensitive and smart. Soon I didn’t feel worthy of their attention and began to avoid allowing the relationship to grow. I had done this in my childhood with my sister, who I imbued with a saintly nature which, by contrast, implied I was evil. All of this deadly comparative thinking led me to believe that I was simply not good enough for any job or any relationship. I went around feeling I was less than everyone else.
This behavior is called lionizing, it means to treat someone as very important or special when they don’t really deserve this status. I went through life lionizing everyone but myself. It's like describing a house cat as a lion.
In my experience this problem is more acute for women. We are likely to discount our own opinion or experience because we believe someone knows better. I have a tendency to do this with people in authority or with men. I simply assume they must be right or know more than I do. I also take on the opinions of others; if they say I’m lazy then I think it must be true.
Like so many other kinds of flawed thinking I failed to assess the facts. I exaggerated my own negative qualities and enhanced the good qualities of others. My therapist taught me to accept and appreciate both my strengths and my weaknesses. As a result, I slowly became able to a take a more measured approach and notice those around me had both the good qualities and weaknesses. She also told me “don’t compare your insides to their outsides.”
An interesting part of my recovery is that my posture has improved. I see myself as having as much value and my opinions as having equal worth as anyone else’s in the room.
One antidote I use for this kind of thinking is using the mantra “I am neither more than nor less than anyone else.”
I try to avoid comparing myself to others as much as possible. The truth is there will always be someone better off than me, and there will always be someone worse off than me. It is a never-ending competition with no finish line. I’ve found that avoiding social media, magazines and TV shows that showcase the lives of wealthy people and celebrities is better for me. In addition, to relieving my feelings of inferiority it has also been helpful is reducing envy.
And here’s the craziest idea of all: Treat yourself as if you are very important and special, because, YOU ARE.