Labelling, separation and comparison: Some wise words for 2021 from Dr. Tony Ortega

#AreYouHereYet? How to STFU and Show Up For Yourself by Dr. Tony Ortega was released in 2020.  Billed as ‘the self-help book the world is missing,’ Dr. Ortega helps readers explore the personal blocks and self-limiting beliefs that keep them stuck.  To mark the beginning of 2021 we are happy to share this extract…

We may be separate as individuals, however, as a species, we are all the same.  Social media blatantly breeds separation if we don’t use it critically.  I want to remind you that social media is fodder for the biggest amplifier of separation and comparison.  At the core of separation and low self-worth is comparing ourselves to others.  When we compare, we become separate by default.  There is no way possible that I can compare myself to someone else and not feel separate.  

Another insidious form of comparison which breeds a massive sense of separation and knocks us out of the present moment:  comparing ourselves to a future, better version.  There is always something we could be doing to improve the quality of our lives.  There is nothing wrong with desiring something.  To borrow a page from Bhuddist philosophy, it is not our desire for things but our attachment to those desires that causes suffering

This leads to an examination of the ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ in our lives.  Famed psychologist Albert Ellis spoke extensively on this matter.  In essence, comparing ourselves to a future version is a whole lot of ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts.’  We are the authors of our own lives and if we want something, no amount of ‘shoulding’ or ‘musting’ on ourselves will get us there.  

One of the easiest ways of combating our internal ‘musts’ and ‘shoulds’ is by changing the wording we use to describe our internal experience.  Would you like to be at another level in your life?  Good.  Now, what are the steps to get there?  Choose to take those steps instead of bashing yourself for not being there already.  Another Twelve-Step saying, ‘Be part of the solution and not part of the problem.’  Staying in your unexamined ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ will keep you in the problem and prevent and forward movement from occurring.  I teach all my clients that the only thing we ever truly have control over is our choices.  We can’t always control what we are thinking and/or feeling.  We certainly can’t control other people.  

You are unique only in that you are an individual, no better or worse than anyone else despite what they have or what you don’t have.  Take comparison out of your repertoire of negative coping and start making active choices to have the life you want.  Stop ‘shoulding’ and ‘musting’ on yourself.  It’s not a good look and a surefire way to wreck yourself.

  1. What do you perceive as lacking in your life and how can you go about changing that without investing an unnecessary ton of money and time?
  2. What allows you to sit with information you receive so you can think about it more critically and objectively?
  3. What are the ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ that dominate your life?  Get mindful of what you can do right at this moment instead of beating yourself to a pulp.  Sometimes the only thing we can do is change the way we perceive something.
  4. What do your trusted allies say about you?  If they see the good, what’s stopping you from doing the same?


Dr. Tony Ortega is a first-generation Cuban American.  He is a licensed clinical psychologist, life coach, and author who has been in private practice since 1992, currently serving the LGBTQ population in his private practice located in Brooklyn, New York.  #AreYouHereYet?  is available now.

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