Updated: Feb 2, 2021
Differences seen in others can either help us to grow or cause negative feelings. How do we use comparisons in a practical sense to improve? How do we know when comparisons are negative?
What are you thinking about at this very moment? Are your current thoughts ones that make you feel less than (unworthy) or greater than? These are terms we usually use to quantify objects, however a lot of us use them to describe ourselves and others around us. Within our society there is a constant need to compare. Is comparison good or bad? It may, depending on how you look at it. Observing two individuals, you may notice that one is taller than the other; this is a fact. Does this fact make one individual better at the game of basketball than the other, maybe not, depending on your perspective. In the game of basketball the person who is taller, has an advantage due to his/her height. On the other hand the shorter individual could be better at dribbling the ball due to his/her low centre of gravity. These sorts of comparisons are what I think of as objective or practical.
There are other comparisons that are subjective and carry a negative feel. For example, the whole concept of beauty. Is there any way to truly determine that one person is more beautiful than the other? So let's pretend we conducted a poll of a hundred participants to choose between two individuals based on beauty, person A and B. If the higher percentage of the population selected person A, is it a fact that person A is more beautiful? No it is not.
Throughout our lives our minds have been conditioned to believe that some things are nicer, more valuable and more respected, based on traditions and social norms. Therefore, deciding who is more beautiful, attractive, prettier becomes automatic based on experience. With the advent of social media these sorts of comparisons are even more amplified. Getting more likes and views is a sign of importance and indicates a level of value. On Instagram, does this mean that the picture with the most likes is the most beautiful?
On a daily basis we are being compared to someone else. If you grew up with siblings you would have a pretty good idea of what comparison looks and feels like. "if only you were like Zack, I wish you acted more like Sue, Danny would never do such a thing, Kim is the smart one - the fat one - the skinny one - the lazy one, and the list continues. The constant comparison can make you feel less than, which can sometimes later translate to low self esteem.
I think it would be unrealistic to expect a world without comparisons. The question is, how do comparisons affect you? Do they affect you negatively or do they inspire growth?
Comparisons can be damaging at any age; as children this can cause us to grow up with feelings of failure and resentment, feeling less than. Without being aware of these feelings and identifying the root cause we end up carrying them into adulthood. But what if there was an alternative, using comparison as a tool to inspire, to teach to motivate. I will never forget the words of my Grandfather - as he sat on the veranda steps, in his favourite hat rolling his tobacco, "Young boy find one person and say I would like to be like him, then find another and say I don't want to be like him".
What my grandfather did was to demonstrate how to use comparisons as a tool to achieve a goal. Since that day I have used this conversation to inspire growth, by simply identifying others in society or my career who I can emulate. Once you find someone you would like to emulate, ask questions to determine the how as opposed to simply focusing on the outcome or their success.
As we go through each day we should be careful of the way we make and receive comparisons. Don't let comparisons derail you on your journey, let it inspire you, let it be a tool for your growth.