I see a lot of one-liner advice these days, especially with the lightning-fast consumer culture of social media. Taking something like “don’t compare yourself to others” at point blank really isn’t a great idea, since it has no depth, it’s one-sided, and there’s no discussion involved. Anything that doesn’t require you to ask questions to yourself isn’t really ‘a thing’ at all - it’s a gift from the universe, a cheap freebie to help temporarily bolster your sense of self-worth that will disappear as quickly as it appeared.
The point is not to not compare yourself to others, but rather to come to understand WHY you are different, why that’s okay or not, and what you can learn from others who are ahead of you in any given field of life. If you determine that it’s okay and you understand the underlying causes as to why that is the case, your soul will be at rest. If it’s not okay, that may be a terrible feeling, but it may be just the feeling that makes you decide to change your ways or to get to know yourself better. It may highlight the fact that you’re not trying hard enough, that you’re self-sabotaging, or that you don’t have much innate talent at something, which is a hard pill to swallow, but it’s just as useful as discovering what talents you do have. Alternately, comparison may just trigger that simple ugly feeling of egotism, envy, jealousy, or lack of self-esteem, which is likely highlighting that you’re lusting after something, which ultimately isn’t in line with your true values after all and therefore isn’t worth pursuing anyway.
Don’t resist or neglect comparison simply because it easily causes negative emotions (just like going to the dentist, which is generally considered a good idea). The key is to figure out which emotions are rooted in egotism and which are rooted in truth, which can help you grow. Comparison is a necessary and useful tool to help you measure where you stand in all of the world’s many hierarchies, and it’s the same mechanism that helps you determine when to walk across the street, whether to eat cucumbers or steak, and whether to send that racy text to your crush or not. All decisions are based on comparison, so just embrace it and get to know yourself better.
Here’s a question to meditate on if you’re struggling with comparison:
Why do I feel bad when I think of this other person I’m comparing myself to?
Is it because: A) I feel I could never achieve what they’ve achieved. B) I know I COULD achieve what they’ve achieved, and this highlights the fact that I’ve been lazy, unhealthy, undisciplined, choosing to remain ignorant, afraid. C) I don’t really know what I want, and I feel that this person really does and it shows through their success and that makes me jealous. D) I know for certain that I want what they have, but I don’t know how to get there. E) They look happier than me.
Write down the answers that apply to you, then write down thoughts about the possible implications of your answers, for example:
A. I feel I could never achieve what they’ve achieved. Perhaps you couldn’t, but why? 1. Is the element of that person you’re comparing yourself to something they were ‘gifted’ at birth (ie, good looks, long legs) or is it something they worked hard to achieve? If it’s the former, it’s worth letting go and instead finding out what your given ‘gifts’ are instead, then nurturing those. 2. Is the person you’re comparing yourself to a savant? If so, that means they are severely talented and severely handicapped. Do you really wish that upon yourself? 3. Have you researched how much time they’ve actually put into what they’re doing? 4. Do you know how well this person is doing in other areas of their life? Often, wildly successful people have put all their eggs in one basket. When you look behind the curtain, you find that these individuals are often bereft of health/balance in many other areas of their life. 5. Do they have a ‘ballet dancers body’ and you have the body of a shot-put champion? Perhaps try and understand that you might be better off pursuing something that you are naturally built for OR consider that maybe you could be the person to ‘break the mould’ in the ballet world, by being equally as good a dancer, but with a totally different body type (a great example of this is Hamilton, in the world of musicals)
B. I know I COULD achieve what they’ve achieved, and this highlights the fact that I’ve been lazy, unhealthy, undisciplined, choosing to remain ignorant, afraid. 1. Do you have a mentor or coach who can help you stay on track? 2. Do you need to ‘pull yourself together’ (ie. get your addictions under control, improve your integrity, MAKE a schedule, STICK to a schedule, feel more ‘growth’ pain)? 3. Is there a program I could take that would help me progress to the next level? 4. Do you have friends and family who support you and your endeavours? If not, prioritize finding people that do.
C. I don’t really know what I want, and I feel that this person really does and it shows through their success and that makes me jealous. 1. Allot more time in your week to discovering who you are: journal, write down your dreams, take yourself on dates and try new things, pick 2 new hobbies and pursue them long enough to know if you like them, consider exploring ways to delve deeper into your psyche, ask your friends and family what your strengths are.
D.I know for certain that I want what they have, but I don’t know how to get there. 1. Interview that person 2. Find a mentor 3. Read/research that industry and other successful people in that industry
E. They look happier than me. 1. Happiness comes and goes for everyone. What sticks around is meaning and purpose. Seek meaning and purpose first and let happiness come and go like clouds in the sky. 2. It’s key to understand that you are only seeing what they allow you to see, which is almost always positive moments that paint them in a good light. This is the ‘tip of the iceberg’ syndrome that's especially prominent in social today. THE MAJORITY of that person’s true feelings and states of being are kept to themselves.