I’m usually quick to say that we should eliminate comparing ourselves to others from our lives and that until we do so we’ll always continue to face mental turmoil and constant dissatisfaction with ourselves. And for the most part, I stand behind that belief … if comparison is used destructively.
But over the past few days, I’ve wondered to myself: what if comparison isn’t so bad after all? Or even better — how can we use comparison to our advantage?
Say what? Comparison is … good?
I know you must be thinking, “What’s up with this girl? Is she confused?” And, you know, maybe I am. But at the end of the day, we all are. That’s a part of life: making sense of the world around us and experimenting with ourselves. If we knew all the answers, we don’t deserve to be here, in my humble opinion.
And no matter what I like to tell myself, I still continue to compare myself to others. Like whenever I catch up with some of my old, ambitious high school friends and find out that they’ve been out volunteering in Europe or doing awesome work in some of the greatest cities in the world.
Or when I see people who seem to find true love so easily.
Or my internet peers who seem to find their calling, are quite successful at it, and have an immensely supportive network of friends and family.
Of course, not everything is what it appears to be on the surface. The traveling nomad could be dreadfully lonely deep down inside, feeling like they don’t belong anywhere. The high school sweethearts could actually be having a tumultuous love-hate relationship that sends shivers of fear down my spine. And the successful lifestyle entrepreneurs could be waging a constant battle between work and family, dangerously skirting the line between wealth and poverty.
And I’m fully aware of that. But it’s definitely easier to ignore what you can’t see. All I can see is the surface and I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t admit the pangs of envy that start bubbling up or the twangs of disappointment I occasionally have with the progress I’ve made so far.
You’re probably thinking: “What’s so good about all of that?” Well, nothing. At least if you just look at that part alone.
Just another tool under your belt
The good news is, I usually snap out of it. I mean, who cares what these other people are doing, right? I’m not them and they aren’t me. I’m sure it would be so much easier to not compare myself to them in the first place.
But I’m human. And far be it from me to give you the assumption that I’m perfect and I never have those kinds of thoughts. No, I’m here to tell you I have that crap through my head, just like you, and it’s okay! And until the day I’m able to barricade them out completely, I’ll continue to have them, just like you. And it’s okay!
I snap out of it because if I don’t, how can I ever give those people and others the chance to help lift me up — how will I ever give myself the chance to lift me up? Comparison is good, when I use it as a way to see others as inspiration to live my life the way I see fit — and not as competition and a reason to label my life as a failure.
You see, I’ve come to realize that comparison is a tool. It’s not evil in and of itself. It’s something that’s engrained in the human psyche to establish us as the social creatures we are. It’s not something to be fought or resisted — because the more we resist it, the more it becomes a weapon against ourselves.
A tool. Like an ax. If you do not know how to hold an ax correctly, it can’t perform it’s job correctly. If you’re afraid of holding the ax and of the harm it can do to you, the more likely you’ll end up hurting yourself or someone else. If you know how to hold it, if you understand the power behind it — the power to chop wood that builds homes, keeps homes warm — then the ax is working FOR you.
Society’s model of competition leaves much to be desired
Our society doesn’t know how to use comparison. We’re terrified of it. We fearfully worship it. We use it as an excuse for everything we’re doing wrong: hurting and shaming ourselves, others, and the planet; hungrily and aimlessly accumulating wealth and material things; mutilating and selling our bodies. We’ve all become prostitutes in the name of competition.
What if we were to use comparison, and thus competition, in a way that enriches our lives?
What if we used competition as a way to inspire ourselves to reinvent the wheel in order to pursue our dreams — and not as a platform to simply copy someone else’s dream?
How can I use others passions to ignite my own passions, interdependent with theirs?
Because at the end of the day, we are all interdependent.
These are questions I’m still discovering the answers to myself. And I feel like I’m getting closer: the more I hear about other people’s successes and happiness, there’s a growing fire within me. A fire that, instead of burning with envy, burns with a passion to chase my own desires and work alongside my inspiring peers.
Readers: A penny for your thoughts? Drop a line in the comments.
**If you’re new here and enjoyed this post, be sure to subscribe for future posts and updates. And feel free to share this post … I’d really appreciate it! Don’t forget to introduce yourself in the comments. Don’t be shy … I don’t bite. You can also add me on Twitter (@valeriemondesir).**
- Why I don’t compete with other women
- You don’t need permission to not “finish” what you start
- How to get along with your sibling (and end sibling rivalry)
- You are a citizen of the world (and why I don’t hate America… and why you shouldn’t either)
- Knowing who you are and why you’re here (and why I have Jeremy to thank)