Competition is everywhere. We are always faced with looking at what other people have and are doing, including the things we may want to do or statuses we want to reach. Healthy competition can be good to help us strive for more, a way to motivate us to move out of our comfort zones. But when we start looking side-to-side too often, constantly sizing up our accomplishments versus another’s, we really get ourselves in a downward spiral because our life is never like someone else’s. Everyone is different and this is why comparing is often a set up to experience either feelings of failure, or feeling too prideful.
Comparisons can be dangerous for our self-esteem. We hear that someone else got the job or promotion we wanted and now we can’t even be friends with them anymore because we feel like we deserved the opportunity more than they did. Or one of our friends is getting married, and instead of being happy for them we are really jealous and envious of their life, because we are single and desire marriage. What about not making the team or playing the position you wanted? All of these things can have devastating impacts on our overall self-esteem and well-being if we are not careful. Just because someone is living out experiences in their lives that we also desire, doesn’t mean that we cannot be happy with where we currently are and trust that our goals and dreams will become reality too.
Appearance is one of the worst forms of comparisons. Society has created a standard of beauty that is almost impossible to live up to. One magazine says this, Facebook says that, family recommends this, but you really like that…and on and on it goes. Women are always categorized as too fat or too skinny. Men cannot win the game of staying physically fit and muscular enough. Even children are judged on who is really cute or not. Why is it that people have such a negative opinion about Beyoncé’s & Jay-Z’s daughter Blue Ivy? Tabloids and social media timelines all over the place mention her being ugly and boyish looking. Why? How? She is just a kid! This is my exact point about comparisons and quick judgments. They can be very harmful to both ourselves and others. And nobody is immune from them.
Success is the next disaster for comparisons. Someone has a level of success that another person wants to obtain, and the hating begins. If someone wears designer clothes, drives a certain car, and lives in a specific part of town, they are suddenly the pinnacle and object of success. But nobody really knows what it required for that person to reach success and financial fitness. Nobody really knows what ups and downs they still have to battle in their minds and lives underneath their well-put-together appearance. All we see is the success and money, and wonder why we don’t have it yet. We look at our homes, cars, and clothing, knocking ourselves down for what we don’t have instead of being grateful for the things we do have. It’s a nasty cycle that can cause unnecessary frustration, anger, resentment, and even mountains of debt as many of us will try to “keep up with the Jones.”
Status is the next highest form of comparison, a close cousin to success. We have learned to equate titles to success, money, fame, and ATTENTION! When we are comparing ourselves to some status quo what we are essentially doing is seeking attention and questioning why someone else has a certain title and why they are so popular. Most of us want to be known, for something..anything. But instead of being diligent in crafting our own abilities and skills, we see the status someone else has and desire that form of instant gratification. Once again, nobody knows what they went through to achieve their status or position in their life, the challenges and barriers along the way (better believe there were many), and the pain they have experienced. Nobody knows what it’s really like to navigate a life of status: think, more success equal more responsibility. And of course nobody knows the inner thoughts or conflicts they have within themselves and with others. You can’t judge a book by its cover.
Comparisons are all about examining (two or more objects, ideas, people, etc.) in order to note similarities and differences (dictionary.com). As I mentioned, some comparison can be healthy and even motivating for us to create and achieve our goals. However, when we begin to see too many differences and then internalize them negatively, this will result in some poor thoughts about ourselves and our lives. Then those negative thoughts evolve into believing that our life experiences are also less-than because they are not like so & so’s…our life goals seem mundane and powerless…and we see our life purpose bleak and meaningless.
All of this negative spiral because we took comparisons way too far.
To avoid this negative thinking trap, simply avoid comparisons altogether. Unless the comparison sincerely sparks some healthy internal motivation, then live your life and be proud of where you are today and where you want to be tomorrow. Remember that everything is a process and very few things are accomplished overnight.
When all else fails, just think: believe it or not, someone is comparing themselves and their lives to yours too.