In this world of constant media tally, hierarchy, and perceived competition, it is all too easy to compare ourselves to others. It is especially easy to rank ourselves relative to those who do things better, achieve more, seem to know more, have more, do things with more ease than we managed so far. After all, there seems to be an endless stream of listings–the best in this, the most accomplished in that, the richest/biggest/strongest/thinnest/best-dressed/most-tweeted/most-friended/most-bought … It is as if we are expected to place ourselves along ordinal strings of relative abilities (and by extension, relative worthiness). As if we are to define ourselves by where others are. To chase the pace of others so we not lose our spot.
Compare yourself to others, and neutral becomes unimportant. You either win, or lose. You are either the best, or risk being the worst. You run: for more wealth, more friends, more recognition, better placement. You look behind your shoulder. You run some more.
Comparison itself is not a bad thing. It can serve as catalyst for progress–you may see someone achieve what you did not know was possible, and it can give you hope to try for dreams you did not dare believe you could make real before. However, it can also–and all too often do–serve to put yourself down, to discourage, to dissuade, to convince yourself that you just don’t have what it takes (though supposedly others do). Comparison can have you believe that you cannot do it and might as well give up on the dream before you even try it. Because others already did it better. Or got there first. Or would.
Comparison is energy–it just is. How we use it defines whether it binds or frees us. Whether it restores or drains. Having awareness of what is possible builds. It infuses motivation. It sustains. It fosters growth. However, relative worthiness stilts. It instills anxiety. It fosters disillusion. It chips at self-worth.
You have the power to choose which forms of comparison you use. Be wary of how you compare, to whom, and why you do so. If you choose to compare yourself to others to show how better you may be than some; know that alongside whatever you think you are measuring, you will also be planting a seed of doubt and failure by making your own worth dependent on your relative ranking among others. If, on the other side, you compare yourself to what you could before and where you’ve come from and what you now believe is possible; know that alongside this perspective you’d be planting seeds of strength and clear-seeing. You will be inviting possibility, expansion, gratitude, and generosity.
Comparing yourself with others–by definition–nurtures shoots of jealousy. They may be well hidden under social platitudes and self-deceit, but you must know that if your sense of who you are depends on where you place in relation to the success of others, there will be some spot of wishing for another’s failure so that your space may advance.
This is not necessary for growth. Like light, more progress by more souls only means brighter futures for each one and less darkened corners for all.
Set yourself free of rank and skin-deep importance. This does not mean you just lean back on half-baked laurels and dismiss the need for further growth. Rather, it calls for finding motivations that do not include climbing over others to get ahead. It calls for identifying the mountains that are uniquely yours to climb and the vistas that are meant for you to see. It releases possibilities that no one can take away from you, for they are within you, and not dependent on another’s stumbling or bowing down or burning out.
Use others’ success as guideposts, not podiums. Utilize their abilities as mentoring for what is possible. Identify what you would and would not accept as paths to growth. Find hope in journeys that belay what you used to believe your could do, then chart anew. There are no limits and there is no race but those you place against your own old habits or lazy bones.
You’ll be stoking the fire of your own dreams, rather than the engine that spins the hamster-wheels of others. Cut ties to relative succeeding, you will enable others to follow and snip free their own. Disavow competition for self-knowledge and self-prodding. Your horizons will become clear of motivations that were soaked and cloaked in jealousy and greed. You’ll walk where you are meant to walk and be who you are meant to be.
Moreover, you will forge a path for young ones, caught as they may already be in constant ranking as a measure of self-worth.
Become a beacon for individual ability. For less competition. More growth.