Apples to Oranges
There was a time when I used to base my happiness and success on how things in my life outwardly appeared in comparison to other people. I would look at friends, family members, class mates, co-workers, acquaintances and sometimes even complete strangers and think, "OMG...they have it SO much more together than I do! They make more money, have more fun, live in bigger houses, go on regular vacations with their partner, have children who clean up after themselves, consistently look like they have a personal wardrobe assistant and..... their roots are NEVER showing!! Why am I such a freaking hot mess in comparison?"
Then, one day, things began to really fall apart. Life took a turn....a whole lot of turns down a pretty rocky road. My husband and I were like bad luck Schleprock (you've seen The Flintstones right?). You can read more about this period of time and what it taught me, in my first ever blog post, Resistance is Futile.
Before it got better (which was more a result of my attitude adjustment than it was a major improvement in circumstances), it resulted in a period of even more constant comparison of my reality to what I perceived was the reality of others. It was bad. I felt inadequate, defeated, awkward, and like I just didn't even want to be around people because I only ever had bad news to share.
Anytime I started falling into the comparison trap, my husband would say...."You know, what you see on the surface, is not necessarily that person's REALITY." Although I KNEW intellectually that he (and all the enlightened self help authors I was reading at the time) were right, it took me a long time to actually believe it. I eventually started going through periods of feeling pretty darn good about where I was at, and then something else stressful would happen, I would be overtired or overwhelmed and BAM...the comparison pity party would start again. 'Why does everything have to be so HARD? Why can't I have/do/be that?'...and so on. Cause you know, nothing makes you feel better about yourself than focussing on all the stuff you aren't or don't have!
After about a thousand repetitions of this same scenario (I don't often learn my lesson the first 900 hundred times), I came to the realization that constantly comparing myself to others, was nothing but a one way ticket to low self esteem. Now that's not to say that I still don't do it sometimes. You better believe I do! It's just that now, I catch myself a lot quicker and am more aware of how counterproductive that repetitive thought pattern is. Comparing myself to other people, never makes me feel better, and it sure as hell doesn't get me what I want.
Comparing yourself to other people is like comparing apples to oranges, as they say. It just doesn't make any sense. It's completely unproductive, illogical and damaging to your psyche. So then why do we do it? 'Well, it's good to have goals', you say, 'it's good to have something to aspire to!' Sure friend, I'm all for evolving. I also think it's great to have mentors and people you look up to. But just realize this......you can aspire to be as benevolent as the Dalia Lama, as funny as Tina Fey, as well read as Stephen Hawking, or as dedicated as Haley Wikenheiser......but you will never actually BE them! You can't be, it's impossible. We are all unique individuals, and therefore, we are NOT comparable. Let me repeat that in a different way. You CANNOT possibly be 'just like' anyone else because you aren't anyone else, you're YOU. In fact, you are the only you that ever was or ever will be in the history of the universe. So, it is impossible to compare yourself to another person who is also a totally unique being. Hell, even identical twins have differences!
You see, if we go around comparing ourselves to other people all the time, we are automatically setting ourselves up for failure. Sure, people are people – we are all 'the same' in our fundamental make up.....just like apples and oranges are both fruits that have seeds and grow on trees. But that is where the comparison ends. One is not intrinsically better than the other. You cannot fault an apple, for not being a good orange (thanks for that one Wikipedia:)
So next time you catch yourself eyeing up the neighbours pristine lawn, your sisters expensive shoes, your buddy's six pack, or your boss's slick new truck. Stop, take a breath and shift your perspective. Realize that you are comparing your 'insides to other people's outsides'. Realize that your perceptions of how good, or perfect, or lucky, a person is are skewed and based on a partial, assumed reality. A cool truck, spotless house, perfectly groomed children, or a collection of Coach bags, does not make you a happy/kind/grateful/successful/joyful/satisfied person.
Understand that there is NO such thing as 'perfect', and that everyone else simply has a different life than you. Embrace those differences, its part of what makes you unique, but still human. We ALL have different relationships, different family dynamics, different challenges, different responsibilities, different body types, different values, and different desires. Not worse, and not better than anyone else's, just different. You are a human being like all other human beings, but at the same time, you are uniquely you. Just like a snowflake is still a snowlflake, but it's different from all the other snowflakes that have ever existed. That's pretty damned cool when you stop to think about it!
Ultimately, the only person it ever makes any sense to compare yourself to, is the person you were yesterday.