Coping with Comparison
Boy, I will do anything for a bit of alliteration.
But alliteration aside (see what I did there?), today I am coming to you with some thoughts about comparison. I’m sure most of us have subjected ourselves to this at one point or another in our lives: looking at ourselves, or at something we’ve done, and undermining it because someone else is further or seemingly better off.
In my first year of university, I lived about ten minutes away from central campus. The path I took every day led me through a scening route, but it could also be secluded. Aside from listening to music and admiring nature, I was pretty much left to my thoughts.
The view on my walk, every day for a year. Not bad!
Sometimes on my walk, there would be people in front of me. Not that I competed with them, but thinking about how far they were never really helped me in any way. Still, if I was particularly tired or half-asleep after a night of sleep deprivation, I found myself wishing I was where they were.
Other times I felt completely alone and wondered why I was the only one on that path. I looked around only to realise that there were others behind me.
As we all know, it’s very easy to assess how far we are – whether that’s on a journey from one physical place to another, or a journey towards a goal – in relation to others. If I have completed a certain amount of work in a week, I can’t help it if I feel a bit more reassured to know that someone has done just as much (or less), or feel worse than someone who has done much more.
But in this simple thought process of “She’s further than” or “He’s better than” something much more important is lost. There’s so many unknown factors, including the hours and effort put in, that lead a person to where they are. Nothing just happens by magic.
So comparing ourselves to someone not only undermines the work they’ve put in to be where they are, but can also make us feel bad about ourselves for no reason.
Sorry, Hermione | Via Giphy
Dealing with bouts of comparison
I have gotten two really good pieces of advice about comparison. Artist Mary Doodles made a video about it, and one thing she said has really stuck with me for years: the only person you should be comparing yourself with is yourself.
It makes sense. All looking at someone else does is distract you from where you are. If you’re too busy thinking about someone else, someone who might be on a different path entirely, you’re not thinking about your own progress.
It’s so much more productive to compare yourself to where you have been. That way you can appreciate how much you’ve done, and gauge how much more you have to do.
Check out Mary’s video for her words of wisdom!
The second piece of advice is from my mother. She once told me, no matter how far you get, chances are there will be someone ahead of you. That doesn’t reflect your capabilities. Chances are, there are also others behind you, hoping to be where you are. It’s all right to watch who’s ahead to motivate yourself to improve, but the most important thing is to just keep working hard.
Because on my walks across campus, wishing I were home didn’t get me there. Walking did.
Thank you for reading, and let me know if you have any thoughts/comments about comparison!
Until next time,