I was in a workshop once, filled with about 100 therapists, psychologists and the like, run by a colleague Kelly Wilson.  He asked us to raise our hands if we thought that deep down, there was something intrinsically wrong with us, something that we felt was not quite right, something that we tried really hard to hide or compensate for or fix.  Something that we'd known about for a long time.

Every single person in that room raised their hand.

I often see people who think they are the only ones who struggle with 'x' (you can fill in the gap here - anxiety, depression, feeling ugly, boring, stupid, unlovable, not good enough.....you get the picture).  I mean, intellectually, they know that other people struggle.  But when they look around them and compare themselves to their mates or people in the media or friends on Facebook, they don't really see much evidence for it.

Or if they do know people who struggle, they're quick to come up with a very valid sounding reason as to why their own particular difficulty points to deep and terrible emotional damage.  Any good stuff that happens to them is luck and the bad stuff is all them.

Does this sound familiar?

There is a good reason why our minds get caught up in this comparison.  Our primitive ancestors needed to make sure that we were safely ensconced in the tribe at all times, because getting chucked out meant you had a really good chance of being eaten.  So we compare ourselves to others to make sure we're still fitting in.

We compare our inner-selves with the outer-selves of others.  And those people you're comparing yourself to?  They are fretting and trying to 'fix' themselves and wondering what others think of them, just like you.  And most of the time, we don't talk about this to anyone.  We just assume that we are the only ones, that others are somehow more 'whole' and we feel even more damaged and isolated by our pain.

Holding in our minds the fact that others suffer too, doesn't necessarily reduce our own suffering, but it can help us feel more connected to what it is to be human, to feel less alone. 

We all struggle. And just like that REM song, "Everybody hurts......sometimes."