The Crippling Chasm of Comparison

Reading about Ray and Charles Eames, contributing so much beauty to the world, a powerful couple, and living in their dream home of their own design, always leaves me feeling so much less. I realize that I compare myself, my path, my achievements to them and in my mind come up way short. There’s no space for appreciation, gratitude, self-kindness when it comes to self-comparison. There is only judgement with me on one end of the balance and someone else at the other. It is though I only exist to be measured against. This is an ugly habit, and one born out of self-loathing. If I hated myself for who I am I’d have to rely on the old staples of failure, insecurity, doubt, and so on, but if I can compare myself to celebrity icons then it makes self-loathing all that easier. It’s as if my mind is cheating by finding counter examples to anything I do rather than being creative.

Comparison is so core to our society, it trumps admiration and appreciation, and becomes an effective tool for us to beat ourselves down. Not only is it used to make ourselves feel bad, but similarly it can be used to build up our own self-esteem at the expense of others. So if we only know the system of comparison we get two options, feel like an underling, a fool that’s beneath other people’s achievements and abilities, or to feel like we’re superior and that others are inferior and beneath us. We get to be pissed at other people’s success, or pissed that other people aren’t as successful as us and that we have to deal with them.

The act of comparison-derived-value is so common, yet so devastating. We can only know what is good or bad by having something to judge it by, some standard. But if we lack a standard, a normal, and only compare ourselves to outliers of course we appear to be failures. The top 1% gets 99% of the attention, so we have no sense of scale or proportion to normal people. What does it mean to be human when the only humans we can compare ourselves are not our peers, but the select few who are statistically remote? That’s bad math. That leads to all sorts of distorted thinking.

I don’t know what the solution is, an external reality will always exist for us to consider and hold ourselves against. Just be careful how you’re using the tool of comparison. Is it inspirational? Is it something to admire for what it is? Or are you using it to berate yourself, to hold yourself back, to deny your own unique human-ness? Are you upset that you’re not someone else, when you already have so much “you” to work with? Ask yourself. You have a choice of how you use your thoughts.

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