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The Right Way to Compare Yourself to Others, and Why You Should

Posted by on June 19, 2013

Here’s a feel-good post for the morning inspired by Zenhabits.net.

One of the biggest reasons we’re not content with ourselves and our lives is that we compare ourselves to other people. —Leo Babauta

Leo’s got it all wrong. He’s comparing himself to the wrong people at the wrong time.

Picture it: you see photos of what someone else is doing on Facebook and think your life isn’t exciting enough.
Actually, I just see people bitching about politics/life/burnt bagels.

You see someone else who has a cool job and think you’re not doing that great in your career.
Only to the extent that my office-free job doesn’t afford me health insurance at the moment. Otherwise, I keep turning down work.

You see someone with a hotter body, and feel bad about yours.
Actually, I check out the folks with the jelly roll middles and thunder thighs and think, “well, you have some junk in the trunk, but your ass ain’t a double wide! You go girl!”

You see someone who has created an awesome business, and think you’re not doing enough.
I’m doing plenty, thank you. I don’t actually want to work any harder than I do, which I’d have to do with a “more awesome” business.

You read about people who are traveling the world, learning languages, going to exotic resorts and restaurants, and wonder why you’re not.
I wonder when I get to spend time at home doing mundane things at home. Traveling is exhausting! And expensive! And there’s nothing like the comforts of home.

Compared to this lady, I don't have far to go with my fitness goals! I'm betting the same can be said for you.

Compared to this lady, I don’t have far to go with my fitness goals! I’m betting the same can be said for you.

No doubt, there are people out there who are smarter, wealthier, and probably happier than me, but competition is what drives us to be better. The key is who you’re choosing for your comparisons. It’s going to happen in your brain, whether you are conscious of it or not. So, when you’re comparing, take look at the poor sods around you who haven’t made it as far, who are uglier, fatter, or whatever-er that you’re neurotic and insecure about. Then, when you’ve built yourself up about your current state of achievement, take a good look at your competition to see how much better you can get. It’s the ones who’ve gone before us and who thrive next to us, who drive us toward excellence.

A lot of contemporary bloggers are overly focused on the solo-self-fulfillment/zen/non-comparison method of attaining inner peace or whatever. That’s fine, if you live on a mountain-top and don’t have to fight for resources, money, shelter and love. But the fact is, competition is part of life. Comparing ourselves to the world is how we reflect who we are, what our place is and how we measure where we want to be. Realism about who you compare yourself to (your near peers and people with similar levels of experience) will give you enough impetus to push a little harder. Comparing yourself to Donald Trump (if you’re not already a millionaire) is a waste of brain cells. Learning from those who are out of your league is a way to compare without being crushed. No matter what, we have something to learn from those around us, and it needn’t be crushing doubt and self-defeatism.

There. Don’t you feel better now?

One Response to The Right Way to Compare Yourself to Others, and Why You Should

  1. Ethan Okura

    Even if you are already a millionaire, comparing oneself to the Donald is still a waste of Brain Cells. Duh! His toupee looks worse than does my thinning hairline. Comparison over. ;)

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