The dangers of comparison.
If Dr. Seuss’ statement is truer than true, which I believe it is, then why do we spend so much time comparing ourselves to other people?
While it may seem quite natural to compare, the potential impact it can have on our self-esteem is quite damaging in nature. Below are several of the inherent dangers of comparing.
Danger #1: We often compare things that have absolutely nothing to do with happiness or fulfillment.
It’s pretty easy to come up with a list of things we commonly compare. It would most likely include money, physical beauty, size of house, talents, and perceived success.
I wrote last week about cultivating happiness and attempted to destroy the myth that you must have certain things in order to be happy. Unfortunately, if we believe that happiness can only be achieved by obtaining more money, better looks, or an above average sized house, then we are building a foundation on very shaky ground.
The extreme popularity of social media has contributed greatly to our comparison culture. It’s easy to compare your game film to another person’s highlight reel, which typically includes pictures or posts which, directly or indirectly, illuminate money, physical beauty, or success. The fact remains, however, that trying to assess another person’s happiness based solely on their social media profile is akin to judging the proverbial book by its cover.
Danger #2: We either compare UP or we compare DOWN.
If you think about it, all comparisons are an attempt to gauge how we measure up with regard to others. When we compare UP, we look to others and think about what they have that we don’t. Conversely, when we compare DOWN, we celebrate the fact that we have something that others don’t. Both of these are sure signs of insecurity as they infer that we need these comparisons to validate our self-worth. Let’s take a look at a few examples, which are based loosely on real circumstances I’ve witnessed with students.
Sherry spent her entire eighth grade year wishing she could look exactly like her friend Kate. In fact, Kate happened to be very popular among all of the middle school girls. She was always wearing the latest fashions in clothing and had a certain look that seemed almost angelic. What Sherry failed to realize is that Kate was suffering from an eating disorder that was a direct result of her desire to look perfect. When the news finally surfaced that Kate was struggling with this disease, Sherry suddenly realized that comparing herself UP to Kate was simply based on looks and had nothing to do with happiness.
Kent was the starting quarterback on the middle school football team. At the end of the school year, his friend Ryan received an award for having been the Most Valuable Player on the team for that year. While Kent was somewhat disappointed, he found great solace in knowing that he was much better than most of the guys on his team. In fact, he began listing off all of the names on the roster and comparing his accomplishments to each of theirs. Even though Ryan had received the MVP award, Kent was determined to be better than everyone else. Clearly, he was comparing DOWN to his teammates. By the time the next season had started, Kent realized he had spent most of his time on energy on others and failed to work on improving his skills. As a result, he lost his job as the starting quarterback.
Danger #3: We dwell on who we aren’t, rather than celebrating who we are.
Ironically, many of the things we tend to compare are things we have very little control over. I remember spending a lot of my younger years wishing that I could be as tall as my younger brother. I would often say things like – Why did he get the tall genes? or Why can’t I just be a few inches taller? What I failed to realize was that my height wasn’t going to change as a result of my pity. In fact, each moment I spent dwelling on my relatively small height was a wasted opportunity to celebrate the many wonderful qualities I possessed.
In next week’s blog, I will outline several strategies which are designed to combat the destructive nature of comparison.
Until then, I invite you to simply be aware of your comparison tendencies. As I’ve shared in the past, proper awareness is always the first step toward sustainable change.