Comparing ourselves to others is a way of making sense of things and of figuring out our place in the world. This can be fine if you have a strong sense of self and healthy self-esteem. However, comparing ourselves with others can either make us feel superior or inferior and neither is healthy.
If in comparing yourself to others, you decide that you are not as good as others, not as capable, are not as likely to succeed as others, it can be harmful, leading to feelings of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. It’s worth remembering that we are all different, like pieces in a jigsaw, with our own unique qualities, strengths, skills values and experience. No one person is just like you, the world needs you to be just yourself, doing what you need to do for the benefit of human-kind.
Like Judy Garland said: “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else”. I used to compare myself unfavourably to others, which supported my belief of not being good enough, then I had a light bulb moment when I was facilitating a group and was aware that all the people in the group were amazing, unique, wonderful people and then it suddenly dawned on me that we are all incredible and unique, so I must be too!
There can be a benefit to comparing ourselves to others if in doing so we are motivated to do better or be better. I experienced this very early on in my career when I worked with an inspirational woman. She was the embodiment of good practice, comparing myself to her still motivates me to aspire to be the best practitioner I can be. The key is to be mindful of why we are comparing ourselves and what we are looking to get from it. And a note to remember is that when you are comparing yourself to another, you never see the whole picture, just a snap shot of that person’s life.
The following story of the Crow and the Peacock explores some of the consequences of comparing ourselves:
There once was a crow who lived in the woods. He was happy with his life and never wanted for anything. But one day the crow saw a dove. ‘That dove is so bright and beautiful’ thought the crow. ‘By comparison, I am so dark and dull’. The crow approached the dove and said ‘You are so beautiful. You must be the happiest bird alive’. The dove replied, ‘I used to think I was the happiest bird alive, but then I saw a robin, its chest was so real and vibrant, I feel so plain by comparison. I think the robin must be the happiest bird alive’. So the crow visited the robin, ‘You’re so beautiful’, said the crow ‘You must be the happiest bird alive. I thought I was the happiest bird alive’, said the robin, ‘until I saw a peacock, its colours were so impressive and rich, my red chest looks so boring by comparison. I think the peacock must be the happiest bird alive’. So the crow flew to a zoo to meet the peacock. Many people flocked to the peacock’s cage and took photographs. When the crowd had left, the crow said to the peacock ‘You’re so beautiful, you must be the happiest bird alive’. The peacock sighed and said ‘I thought I was the happiest bird alive but then they put me in a cage because of my beauty. Sometimes I look to the sky and see crows flying free and all I want is to be a crow, I think the crow must be the happiest bird alive’.
By comparing ourselves to others we lose sight of our own blessings. The secret to happiness is to be thankful for what we have and not upset over what we lack.
If you are interested in finding out more about the work of Janette, she can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and www.circleswork.co.uk