What do you mean by “comparison”?
When I talk about comparison, I’m referring to the tendency we all seem to have at some or many points in our lives to view ourselves (our appearance, personality, circumstances, relationships, abilities, etc.) in comparison to others. As parents, we seem to also compare our children to other children and, subsequently, our parenting to that of other parents. Furthermore, our comparisons are often skewed; we usually compare how someone looks from the outside (e.g., “they seem like they have it all together”) to how we feel on the inside (i.e., not so “all together”). Thus, the sort of comparison of which I’m speaking is not healthy objectivity (as determining norms or benchmarks can often help us determine our strengths), and it’s not even competition per se (as competition in a healthy sense can sometimes spur us on to success; think of sport teams that thrive as they rise to meet the challenge of competing with other teams). But constant comparison of ourselves to others can actually impede our own growth and success.
What’s so bad about comparison?
As noted, when we get caught up in what others do or have (referred to as jealousy or coveting), we become discontent with ourselves and our circumstances. While it is true that we have flaws and weaknesses and may be coping with difficult circumstances, once we let comparison weasel in, we are at risk of not only inflating our struggles, but also of forgetting about our strengths and blessings (and we all have them too). A focus on the good stuff is what helps us to feel content, at peace, and even full of joy, despite our difficulties and weaknesses. Comparison also breeds insecurity, as well as holding us back from well-suited aspirations (if we are trying so hard to be like someone else, we may miss opportunities to thrive in the areas in which we are truly talented). In addition, comparison creates impossible goals and sets us up for failure, since we cannot be as good as or better than everyone else out there in every area. And lastly, for those of us who are parents or other role models for the next generation, we are setting a bad example for them when we compare, because we pave the way for them to experience all the negative fallout just described.
So, how do we stop comparing?
We need a perspective shift. While we are all created equal, we are each uniquely equipped to handle our own blessings and burdens (and, likewise, ill-equipped to handle the combination of those that others possess). Furthermore, it seems that we are not meant to be duplicates of one another, or even to constantly compete with one another, but rather to compliment and complete one another. These latter terms insinuate that we will all have areas where we are weaker or less skilled (perhaps even completely unskilled), but if we shift our focus away from comparison with others and onto our own strengths, passions, interests, and talents, we can find contentment and truly thrive. We will inevitably enrich the lives of those within our care and circle of influence as we become contented cheerleaders and teammates instead of insecure critics.