Stop ‘Othering’ Yourself

How to Stop the Cycle of Compare and Dispair and Move on With An Intentional Life

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

“Othering yourself” was a term I heard the other day during a coaching call with the amazing Stacy Boehman. 

It’s a habit I’ve been doing unconsciously my entire life, but that was the first time I’d heard someone assign it a term to it, and it really hit home with me.

Here’s an example of what ‘othering’ looks like in my life:

Two weeks ago I decided to walk to a local coffee shop during my work break. 

I was wearing my usual leggings, sweatshirt, and Converse tennis shoes, with my hair in a bun. (I live alone and work from home, let’s just say the dress code around here has gotten extremely lax).  

I know I didn’t look my best, but I felt comfortable and wasn’t looking to impress anyone, so I decided to go as is.

While waiting for my coffee a woman walked up to the counter to pick up her order. Her back was turned to me but I noticed her grey, ankle-length jacket, tan pants, leather boots, and coordinating purse. 

The very first thought that entered my brain was “I’ll never look that put together.”

I suddenly felt dumpy, unattractive, and, less than.  And just like that, my happy trip to the coffee shop quickly turned into one of self-judgment and disappointment.

Maybe a similar situation has happened to you? 

You see someone running a half marathon, getting a promotion, or taking a sunny vacation,- basically every other post on social media – and you think “That will never be me”, “I’ll never be that good/pretty/successful/lucky”, fill in the blank. 

Fortunately, I’ve gotten to know my brain better recently, so it wasn’t surprising that my first thought was to ‘other myself’. It was a familiar pattern that I’ve cultivated over the last 54 years. 

But just because it was my first thought, doesn’t mean it had to be my final thought.

In this particular instance at the coffee shop, I was able to recognize the familiar thought spiral I was about to walk into, and I knew I didn’t want to go there. I understood it would result in me feeling sad or sorry for myself and I would carry that feeling into the rest of my day.

So instead of letting my brain run with the first, unintentional thought, I decided to take a step back and just get curious about it.

First, I knew it was just a thought, and our thoughts are optional.

Second, I remembered that I had consciously decided ahead of time not to change my clothes or upgrade my look just to go pick up coffee, and that decision had been fine with me.

Third, I reminded myself that, how another person chooses to show up for themselves at any given moment, HAS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with me.

But that’s automatically where our brains go, right? We see someone else’s life or appearance and we turn that around to somehow mean something about us.

Kind of silly, isn’t it?

Especially since we probably know nothing about that person or their life. We still judge ourselves for somehow falling short compared to them or their circumstance.

But the truth is we get to decide which thoughts we want to keep. And we don’t have to choose our first thought.

On my way home from the coffee shop that day I wondered what other thoughts I could think about this lovely woman’s outfit that wouldn’t put me into a negative thought/action pattern. It couldn’t be some rainbows-and-daisies meme regurgitated off an Instagram Reel, it had to be something from my own brain that I could believe. A thought that felt true in my body.

The new thought I chose was: I can look put together whenever I feel like it. 

And then, to give my brain the evidence it needed (our brains are always looking for evidence, good or bad), I thought back to the times I’ve looked and felt good…like going out for sushi a few weeks ago, going to my sister’s house for Thanksgiving in a super cute outfit, and almost every day of my 33 years working in an office. 

This new, intentional thought immediately made me feel better. I could literally feel the relief in my body.

But, more importantly, I got to retain authority over how I felt about myself, instead of giving that power over to someone else.

Our self-worth doesn’t come from how someone else looks or acts. It comes from our own thoughts about ourselves. And we can choose those thoughts just like we can choose an outfit. 

It’s not always easy to recognize an unintentional thought and consciously change it to an intentional one. It takes practice, but it’s possible. 

And, like anything else, the more you practice the easier it becomes.

The alternative is to continue allowing negative thoughts to run unchecked in the background of our brains (they’re sneaky that way), and continue to be at the effect of the compare-and-dispair cycle.

What are some intentional thoughts you want to think about yourself? 

Write them down and keep them in your back pocket so you can take them out when you need to. 

Consider choosing an intentional thought, so you can move forward with an intentional life.

Discover What’s Possible.

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