“Comparison is the thief of joy!” I’ve heard it more than enough times in my life and I tend to believe it as a general rule. Especially in our social media world where a constant barrage of possible comparison points comes to our pocket, it can be easy to get sucked into a whirlpool of self-esteem damaging photos, videos and messages. It’s an uphill battle to say the least and the options or ending the conflict seems to be surrender or retreat. Neither of those options is 100% healthy nor practical. So my suggestion is leveraging it when it’s appropriate. Below is an example.
My uncle Bob, yes! the actor from a prior blogpost, was an accomplished runner in his 20s. In 1980, he qualified for and ran the famed Boston Marathon. In 1995, he was trying to make a return to Boston for the 100th running of the race by qualifying in the New York Marathon. At the halfway point, he was on target to qualify for Boston. Unfortunately he got a leg cramp and hobbled for a bit. He was considering dropping out of the race. That all changed when a person dressed in a Gumby costume passed by him. Something inside of him would not accept being beaten by Gumby! So he got back into the race and finished with a very respectable time of 4:00:56.
Comparison can be a problem there is no doubt about it. Looking at Bill Gates’ financial success is only going to make my financial world seem pathetic. However, complete denial of comparison is probably an unrealistic goal for most of us. Perhaps the Buddhist monks have it figured out but I sure don’t. So the only thing that makes sense to me is to leverage it when it is useful and ignore it when it isn’t. Uncle Bob got more out of himself with the brief comparison to Gumby. It was a catalyst to get him to do something that was in line with his abilities and goals on a particular day. He did not feel horrible at the finish line because he hadn’t won. That was a comparison that would not have served him. Nor did he compare his fame to the green claymation character. It was a tool that was used but then discarded.
So unless you are channeling your inner monk, there is a good chance that you are comparing from time to time. Let most of them go because they don’t serve. When it makes sense because your goals and abilities align with some healthy competition, so be it. Another option is having what Simon Sinek refers to as a “worthy rival“. They are not simply a competitor to be beaten. Instead they serve as mirror for us to look at ourselves and seeing their strengths allows us to see ourselves more clearly. In the long term the human experience is not set up in a win/loss scenario. There are too many metrics to determine who “wins” at life. However it is possible to define for yourself how to live a “good life” and align your goals and objectives with that. Seeing people who are already doing that which you want can be helpful and powerful, provided that you don’t bury yourself under the weight of comparison.
Who do you want to be? Now go be that!