Let’s face it. Making comparisons is a natural part of a human being’s existence. To tell someone to never compare (even one’s self to another) is to basically tell someone not to function as a normal human being.
I mean we’re taught to compare at a very young age. Think about the elementary school experience. We learned to compare:
- numbers and identify them as less than, greater than or equal to;
- words that were spelled incorrectly against words that were spelled correctly;
- measurements of objects in height, length, and weight; and
- whose classroom had the most school spirit.
And during recess, there was always the picking sides or teams process that validated some while humiliating others. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s the process where the team captains go down the line of hopefuls and take turns picking all the best players out of the group until they get down to the remaining stragglers who aren’t as gifted in the physical activity at hand. And, those folks are less than enthusiastically divvied off until everyone has a team.
We even went so far as to compare our teachers. We had our favorites and those we were happy to leave behind when we moved on to the next grade level. And if you know that students compared teachers to one another; then undoubtedly, you know that the teachers and school systems compared their students to one another. Furthermore, we (as students) were made to compete as we were compared to our peers at school. For example,
- In sports, think of first string vs. second string, starters vs. bench, or junior varsity vs. varsity.
- In academics, think of grade point averages, standardized and college entry exams, scholarships and grants, and honors and advanced placement classes.
- In school citizenship, think of those who participated in extra-curriculars vs. those who didn’t, those who held student leadership roles vs. those who didn’t, and those who graduated with honors vs. those who barely graduated.
Traveling further along life’s road, as adults trying to establish our work histories, it’s highly likely that we’ve moved on from one job opportunity to the next, evaluating which career move would put us more in line with our professional goals. And at each job opportunity, it didn’t take us long to compare the current job to the one before it, compare new managers and coworkers to the old ones, and evaluate all the work environments in which we’ve had to perform.
Even as parents, we compare our children and the experiences that we have individually with each one separate from the other. We compare our biological parents to our parent-in-laws, our siblings to one another and to ourselves, our spouses to our past relationships, and the experiences we had growing up to the experiences we’ve had as grown-ups.
When do we not compare? Seriously, there’s probably not a day that goes by that you don’t compare things such as the movies, tv shows, and YouTube videos you see; music you listen to; and books and blogs you read. So, how is it that you’re to turn off your natural tendency to compare yourself to others?
We compare. It’s one of those organic phenomena that come with living life. Just think of produce at the grocery store. I mean how are you going to pick the best out of the options of fruit available at the time, if you don’t compare them individually one against the other? If I see a piece of fruit that looks better than the one before, then I put back the one that’s not as good and go for the more desirable one. So, comparisons will come. And, we must own up to that fact of life instead of playing like it doesn’t exist and that we’re in the wrong for comparing things, people, or even ourselves to others.
I’m not going to put out this blog post, stating that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others; it’s inevitable. You just need to know how to handle this behavior with proper care. (I’ll save this topic of discussion for a future blog post, coming in the next installment of The Art of People Business.)
And, I’m not going to act like I don’t do it. I obviously compare people to one another and myself to others. But what I’ve come to be especially cautious about is the way in which I view “me” in respect to “him” or “her”. I’ve decided not to fall into the trap that “comparisonitis” tends to set for those who haven’t yet recognized the importance of going through their own life processes. In questioning why I’m not where the “other” person is in life or have what the “other” person has in life, I’ve come to realize that I’m not that person. And, every human being’s journey is unique to him or her.
Truth be told, I don’t know all the ins and outs of another person’s journey. I don’t know all the deepest, darkest secrets of how he or she achieved success; I only know what is revealed on the surface, which could be false or highly glorified at best. You know what I mean. It’s that filtering out the messy details before dispensing to the public scam. And quite frankly, if I did know all the intimate, secretive details of those socialites I admire, I probably wouldn’t want to go through their experiences in order to get to the same level of success.
We have to be very careful when trying to achieve progress in our lives and patterning off of people to do so. We don’t know what that person had to go through or had to do to get to his or her placement in life. Case in point: you day and night dream about all these entertainers in music, movies, and sports and envy their achievements. But when some of the traumatic and horrific things they had to do to gain success comes to light, you can quickly get a reality check that takes you out of the mindset of wanting to be like Mike.
Be careful about what you wish for and openly speak about when propping people and their successes up as a standard to achieve and to uphold. I’m a firm believer in the power of words and what we speak as well as the type of mindset we choose to adopt. So, let’s choose to speak and think positive things and thoughts in our lives instead of being so incredibly invested in others’ lives.
Furthermore, there’s a level of comparison that’s very detrimental and it feeds negatively on the individual psyche. This unhealthy case of comparisonitis makes you feel inadequate. Instead of encouraging you to do better, it puts you into a state that tells you you’re not good enough or you’ll never live up to this other person’s potential.
We should never give any one person so much control over our lives that we’re made to feel less than or that we don’t measure up. Where is it written in stone that our “measure up” has to be the same as another’s “measure up” anyway? Understand what I’m saying?
What we have to realize is that there are no two people on the face of the earth that are exactly alike, not even twinsees. And we don’t need clones of one another. Just think how incredibly non-diversified this world would be if that were the case. BORING!
So, you can’t assume that the person out there who you’re aspiring to be like in whatever way (whether it’s to have the looks, talents, natural abilities, relationships, etc.) is the be-all end-all to who you are. We have to be very careful of steering clear of a covetous nature. Let’s adopt the mindset that says “he or she inspires me to better myself; therefore, I’d like to have something similar to what that person has but for myself, by my own merit, in my own unique way, and on my own terms.”
And let’s quickly drop any kind of thought process that take us to a place where we want to take something that belongs to someone else. Instead of earning that “thing” for ourselves, we want to take someone else’s “thing”. This kind of mindset follows a slippery slope to some very destructive behaviors. And, my area of expertise is not equipped to handle such a discussion. So, I’ll save this topic for the psychologists and I’ll just stay in my lane. Let me get back there.
To end this discussion, I want to leave things on a positive note. There is a healthy comparison that raises a level of competitiveness (level of productivity . . . a level of performance) that drives a person to keep getting better at whatever it is he or she is trying to learn or achieve. In this sense, comparison of self to someone else (or others) could actually work toward that individual’s best interest.
I mean how do we get better at something if we never compare ourselves to others (even to ourselves)? Just make sure you’re realistically comparing yourself on an even playing field to someone similar to you or to someone slightly more skilled in your area of interest. And even comparing yourself (to someone way past your level of expertise) is okay in certain respects, but not all. It can become an unhealthy obsession and lead to unnecessary depression and discouragement, if you’re constantly viewing yourself as “unworthy” or “incapable of the same level of success” as that overachiever you highly regard.
It’s okay to seek success that you witness someone else exhibiting. Just know that you can’t take someone else’s experiences and live them out in your own life. That other journey belongs to that other person, not you.
Therefore, your only viable solution to work toward your goals is not to travel on someone else’s road. It’s to live your life. It’s to go through your own journey based on your own unique set of circumstances and events that no other person could possibly duplicate (no matter how hard he or she tries). Your experiences are yours to own. So, strive to value and work with the ones you’ve been given. You can get where you need to go by being who you were created to be.