The Three Conceits

I am worse.

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I cannot get my son on a sleeping schedule that people say is normal—they naturally go to bed as very young infants at 9 p.m. or later, but it isn’t healthy for them. Something about melatonin, maybe, or crankiness.

Do other mother’s keep their children’s nails cleaner? Mine inherited my nails. Dirt has a magnetic attraction to them, I have to clean them twice a day. Should I be cleaning his that often? Should I be cutting them more?

The midwife said he looked tan. What does that mean? Is a child supposed to be tan? Am I getting him too much sun? He doesn’t look tan to me, but I’ve never heard that said about a baby. Is this negligence?

Why won’t this diaper rash go away? We switched the wipes, the diapers. We do elimination communication. So much diaper-free time. Should I buy that butt paste? Or is that not natural enough? Will the coconut oil work?

Isn’t there supposed to be a special kind of love for your child? I love him endlessly, but I love my partner and my sister endlessly, too. What if there is something wrong with me?

I am better.

superior

Elimination communication is so obvious. We save money. Him and I talk more. I bet we aren’t going to have any trouble with potty training. Eight weeks, and if his diaper off, he already gives a big, particular cry about having to use the toilet.

Breastfeeding until when? That’s not enough. We’re breastfeeding on demand either until he self-weans or, if I can’t handle it, after the birth of my second son. The APA might say that 6 months is fine, but the WHO says at least a year. I can’t believe people won’t make the sacrifice for those extra IQ points.

Of course we co-sleep. Can you imagine your little baby so far away from you? How do moms leave without their babies? I can’t imagine five minutes away from him. And it doesn’t even make sense, how inconvenient to get up to get him when he needs me at night!

Other people must be lying about the special love, or maybe they just don’t love other people enough. Perhaps their love is small and discriminatory and now, for the first time in their lives, they’re experiencing what love has always been like for me.

I am equal

scale.

Oh, look, that mom is baby wearing! She probably had her birth at home, like me. I’m going to talk to her. I wonder if she is planning to homeschool, too.

She’s talking a lot. She must be anxious. I’m anxious. Anxious sisters!

Everyone’s love is of the same texture and quality as mine; they’re just being poetic.

Everyone feels the same effort I did in labor; they’re just calling it pain because they don’t have the words to express it.

I am better. I am worse. I am equal.

These are the three conceits.

In Western society, when we talk about conceit, we just mean the first one, “I am better than someone.” In Buddhism, we consider instead the comparison itself conceit.

While we share a common humanity, each experience is unique. When I hear the word “love,” it means something entirely different than when you hear the word, “love.” It may not even have a positive connotation for some people, and for most it is a tricky subject.

Comparing yourself to others sits you in judgment. It means that you know. This is conceited.

While comparing ourselves to others, we are also implicitly acknowledging a stable-state of self, as opposed to a person who grows and changes and is different each day.

Does this mean that we can’t discriminate between one person and another? That we don’t have some inkling of what is going on?

Of course not. We are human. We automatically evaluate situations and people and there’s nothing wrong with that. What we can do, though, is not take our judgment to be capital T Truth.

There does need to be some standard of evaluation, and for that, you can use all of your past selves or your theoretical future self. What do you want to be like? What are you goals? How have you gotten better since two years ago? There is no need for other people in this equation.

You are not better than, worse than, or equal to others.

And even if you were, it doesn’t make you feel peaceful to think about. If it isn’t useful, throw it out.

Journal Questions:

  1. What is one area of my life where I compare myself to others?
  2. When I want to evalute that area of my life, what is another way to do it?

Practice:

  1. Each time that you compare yourself to another person, take a mindful minute.

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