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/ A W A R E N E S S M A G A Z I N E
J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 1
J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 1
A W A R E N E S S M A G A Z I N E /
/ A W A R E N E S S M A G A Z I N E
J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 1
31
Over the past decade I have
come to accept and embrace my
role abilities and gifts as a wom-
an, a writer and a teacher, grati-
fied to see the effect I can have
on my dear readers and those
who come to study or retreat
at the Anima Sanctuary. We've
gotten hundreds of letters, de-
scribing the wonderful healing,
scary explorations and impor-
tant growth resulting from their
time here, dispelling any doubts
I might have harbored.
Yet, like many women I know,
I still find myself needing to con-
front and deal with deep-seated
insecurities from time to time.
They come -- I've discovered --
not from a failure to love my true
self or value my inherent gifts,
so much as from the unhealthy
imagining that I need to have all
the same gifts and abilities as
others do.
From the time we are kids,
we're led to constantly compare
ourselves to other women, and
especially to the women on TV
and in the magazines, resulting
too much of the time in feelings
of inadequacy. Worse still, there
is usually someone in our lives
who seems to be the epitome of
what parents or boys or society
adores the most.
In my case, it was my nemesis
Maggie, a girl who lived down
the street and rode with me to
school every day. She was the ar-
chetypal "Perfect Girl." Not only
was she very beautiful, she got
the most perfect grades in class
year after year, and had so many
clothes that it seemed she never
wore the same outfit twice.
Her house was a gorgeous,
old and mysterious mansion,
where her mother baked home-
made pastries while she slept
in a hand-carved oak canopy
bed covered with antique lace. I
bugged my mother to get me a
canopy bed after seeing hers, but
mine was bought at Sears and
of course was nothing like Mag-
gie's. Predictably, the boy that I
had the hugest crush on fell for
Maggie.
While she was always po-
lite, it felt like she looked down
on me and seemed a little em-
barrassed to have to say hello
when our paths crossed in the
hallways. I never thought I was
ugly, but figured if only I were
prettier and had better clothes,
the popular kids would like me
better, and they'd want to pick
me first for their teams in gym
instead of always nearly last.
No matter how well I did in
school, I still worried because I
wasn't as good as the very best
students. I excelled at track and
cross country, not because I had
a natural talent, but because I
pushed myself so hard that I was
able to win races in spite of my
awkward gait.
Even moving from upper
middle class Massachusetts to
the hip neighborhoods of San
Francisco, involved trying to be
somebody I wasn't: super hip
and savvy, clever, independent,
more interested in sexual variety
than finding true love. I dressed
the part, shaved my head, wore
torn black clothes and black lip-
stick, yet still didn't feel like I
belonged even there among the
self proclaimed "freaks".
To many, a divorce is due to
comparing one's own marriage
to what we imagine to be the
happiness of others, even though
we usually never see the strug-
gles they really go through. There
would be fewer race wars if one
color wasn't imagining the other
color to be richer or more en-
dowed, born with more advan-
tages or coddled by government
programs.
The real threat from Russia
never came from communism,
which was a failure on its own,
but from the resentment and
envy that comes with compar-
ing their gross national product
and consumer luxuries to those
of Americans.
Suicide and clinical depres-
sion wouldn't be so common, if
we in modern society hadn't got-
ten into the habit of comparing
our abilities to those we believe
have more, while downplaying
our own innate qualities, and
taking our developed skills and
accomplishments for granted.
It's likely not a good idea for a
carpenter to always be compar-
ing his work to that of other car-
penters... and it makes less sense
for him to compare his abilities
and efforts to those of affluent
stock brokers or television he-
men. Nor for a sick old man to
compare himself to an exuber-
ant teen, or a woman to compare
her physical strength to that of a
large and laboring man.
When I told our partner Wolf
I was sad that I might never be
as strong and decisive as him,
he replied, in a lovely piece of
writing, that "I am not and will
never be as naturally blissful,
undemanding, child-like, easy
going or plain old pleasant to be
around. I could never sing like
you, able to make the river smile
and the trees dance. I could
never touch people's hearts with
my cooking the way you do, if I
practiced a thousand years. You
can make clumsiness appear
graceful, while my every slip-up
looks ridiculous and deserved.
Compared to you, I'm insuffi-
ciently accepting of other people
and not nearly forgiving enough
of their transgressions, weak-
nesses or faults. When wounded,
I'm more likely to hit the other's
cheek than to turn mine. I can be
discerning to the point of being
unbearably critical, motivated to
the extent of pushing too hard,
and alert to the point of being
aggravatingly overstrung.
I might have to feel bad about
myself, if I thought it reasonable
to expect me to be like you. By
your smiling, brown-haired mea-
sure I'm not nearly considerate
enough, patient enough, accept-
ing enough, relaxed enough, or
even sweet enough..."
For 14 years now, I've been
in a devoted relationship where
my real self and natural abili-
ties have been affirmed and nur-
tured, while living in an inspirit-
ed wilderness canyon that tends
to destroy every illusion and self-
placating lie.
The people in my life care for
me for who I truly am, and not
what I might ever wish to be. I
recognize my essential gifts now,
and teach our students from that
place of authenticity with all
its attendant power. Like a re-
formed alcoholic, however, the
challenge not to compare myself
to others never goes completely
away.
While I am honored for my
example of presence and the spe-
cial magic of the food I prepare,
complimented for how easy it is
for people to bare their hurting
hearts to me, and thanked for the
delight and playfulness that I in-
spire, I still have to be on guard
not to ruin the moment with re-
grets that I'm not a wonderfully
confident orator like our Anima
co-director Kiva Rose.
The flip-side, of course, is
how perfectly our differing tal-
ents and temperaments comple-
ment each other. While not being
total opposites, we are definitely
pieces of a puzzle with qualities
that make our world here in the
canyon feel more whole. She
is the Grizzly Bear, self aware,
gifted with dreaming, connec-
No Comparison
by Loba
Anima School partners Kiva (on the left) and Loba benefit from
having different gifts and abilities... and from getting past unhelpful
comparisons.
Photo by Jesse Wolf hardin
(Continued on page 32)