Not Fair to Compare

“Do your best to always see just how unique you can be.” – Marc Boston

 

“Always remember that you are absolutely unique just like everyone else.” – Margaret Mead

 

One of the most remarkable revelations I’ve ever received, was discovering just how useless comparing myself to others has always been.  The unfortunate thing is that I struggled with this unfavorable flaw for more years that I care to admit.

It started around high school when I slowly began to negatively judge myself on a great number of things.  Whether it was my athletic performance in gym class, my popularity, or even my prowess with the young ladies, I would regularly measure myself against the skill, talent and charisma of others I perceived to possess as much or more.

This tendency lamentably lingered on into my young adulthood, where I put away my childish judgement ruler and began scrutinizing my strengths and weaknesses using a much bigger, more adult yardstick.  I graduated to comparing job titles, income, vehicle make and models, house size and neighborhood, and other worldly possessions as my perceived measurements of success.

Welcome to Loserville – Population 1

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Franklin Roosevelt

My tendency to compare may have worked in my favor had I used it as a motivational tool for personal growth.  Instead it became a source of pain because I took the strengths of others and compared them to my weaknesses, it seemed as if I was failing.

This obviously doesn’t feel good!

From my limited and shortsighted perspective, everyone seemed to be doing better than me.  It appeared that:

  • Everyone was more capable
  • Everyone was much smarter
  • Dudes at the gym seemed to all be stronger
  • Folks that I met had more charm and class and were all on the fast track to gain even more than I was capable of.

They were the beautiful people, and somehow I had missed my chance…somewhere I’d taken a wrong turn and had ended up in Loserville, USA – population Me.

The Consequence is Low Self-Confidence

“Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle or your middle to someone else’s end.” – Tim Hiller

Comparing ourselves to others is something we all do from time to time mostly to our detriment.  When we compare ourselves our self-esteem takes a major hit – This could cause us to stop pursuing our goals and dreams before we even really get going.

Illustration by Stephen Alcorn, from Langston Hughes – An Illustrated Edition

For example, when I first began writing picture books, I would often compare myself to other authors.  However, I made the mistake of sizing up my efforts against writers who had been in the game for years – writers who had paid their dues behind the scenes and were already receiving the fruits of their labor.  They were experiencing a level of success that took them sometimes years to gain, yet I wanted those same accolades right out of the gate.

Is it fair to compare my beginning effort to someone else’s middle effort?

I’m still relatively a new jack to the business of writing, so it’s certainly not fair to judge myself against someone who’s been doing this for years.  If I did so, I might become jealous, resentful, depressed and want to leave the writing business altogether!

Instead, if I focus on my strengths – writing honest, meaningful, substantive stories – I will realize that I have a lot to offer and with some effort and patience, I will also receive my just desserts and be happy about it.

 

You Do You, I’ll Do Me

“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde

It’s so cool that we have the ability to acknowledge the fact that so many people have a variety of talents – and when those people let their talent shine, we can all benefit from that.  However, we should try spending a little more time focusing on our own talents and strengths instead of the strengths of others.  We will be of greater service to ourselves and to others when we develop a true awareness of our own value and self-worth.

How do we go about learning what our value is? Here’s a link to The Seven Signs You Know Your Value.

It’s very important to be able to look at what we bring to the table, this is one of the keys to a successful life. Without this we will become unmotivated, we won’t believe in ourselves and our dreams will remain unborn.

We each have our own unique qualities that make us who we are.  It is important that we take the time to identify and then develop these virtues so that we can move in a positive and prosperous direction in life.

Getting Off the Merry-Go-Round

“To love is to stop comparing.” – Bernard Grasset

So how do we stop squandering our happiness and get out of the comparison trap?

Be aware.  We must become aware when we begin to compare ourselves to others.  Perhaps we’ve been doing it for so long that it has become a bad habit.  Like other bad habits, we must first admit that we have a problem and by doing so we become more conscious.  We’ve now begun the process of becoming aware of the thoughts that are going through our minds.  Who or what triggers your envious thoughts? Be mindful of the fact that these feelings don’t add value to your life and STOP!

Pause.  Remember that these are real emotions that may show up everyday, or even moment to moment.  To put them in their proper place will take time and practice.  Don’t beat yourself up! Acknowledge the thought and then shift focus.

Be grateful.  Shift your focus back to yourself and what you already have been blessed with.  Count what you have and look forward to the things you plan to gain.

Have hope.  To compare as a source of motivation is one thing, but to “covet” is not cool! Do you admire these people or do you want what they have.  Well let’s be real, you will never have exactly what they have.  It may look similar, but it will always be different.  Embrace that fact.  You can use people as motivation because they inspire you to live better and to make a difference in the world.  But when you just want their “stuff” then you’ve entered into unhealthy territory.

Remember that they are just people too.  And if they can do great things, so can you.  Don’t fall for the okie-doke by allowing other people’s successes make you feel a sense of lack.  Flip the script and use comparisons as motivation to become a better person so that maybe you can use that energy to increase the joy in your own little corner of the world.

“The only person you should be better than is the who you were yesterday.” – Unknown

 

MB

One comment

  1. Great lessons in this piece Marc. I know it feels good to finally “get” it. There’s always room for improvement in our lives, but it’s a release from anxiety when we finally discover we are good enough just as we are.

    Like

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