Avoiding the Comparison Trap

Embracing your individuality.

Posted Nov 08, 2017

Anyone who has studied science will know that comparisons are completely invalid correlations that cannot be drawn unless one is comparing like with like. The chances, of finding exact replicas when comparing two humans who are not identical twins (and not even then!) are zero. So why do we do it to ourselves?

Well, of course, not everyone does. There are some people who plow their own furrow and are happy to be themselves. These people are rare and have usually been accepted just as they are since they were very small. This is not most people’s experience. Most people have had a carer or teacher who has said “Why can’t you be more like…..?” or “Your sister/brother doesn’t behave like this.” Or simply, “Why can’t you be more helpful/numerical/practical/useful?” Some of us learn from quite a young age that there is a gold standard and we are not "it." So how can we tackle this tendency to compare ourselves to others?

Firstly, you have to accept that there is no one else like you. Then you need to embrace this; it is good and wonderful that you are uniquely different to anyone else on the planet. From your unique looks to your habits, knowledge, and talents you are the only person on the planet like you. Embrace this. One of the most frightening ideas today is the homogeneity of looks proposed by articles and magazines in the West. How awful if we were to end up like some futuristic sci-fi world all looking identical—ugh!

I had a parent who let me know that I was not what they thought they had ordered.  However, over the years I have learned to feel sorry for them. They have never fully embraced who I am, they are slightly embarrassed and non-plussed by me. I could mind about that and, of course, I used to, but I realized the only person getting hurt was me! This person has paid no rent to be in my head and therefore their ideas and values have no place in my mind. I am fine just the way I am and they have missed out on a wonderful warm relationship with a lovely person—me!

This is hard to do if you have always felt that you are regarded as falling short or not quite good enough, but it is important to value yourself for the unique individual you are. This does not mean you are perfect and have nothing to learn. It does mean that you will have strengths and weaknesses and you will need to ask for support when tackling a weakness or something that doesn’t come naturally to you. I have to have someone help me with complex figures as I find them baffling but, alternatively, I can help others with things I am good at and understand.

It is not healthy for humans to compare themselves to others. In some circumstances, you will come out more favorably in certain lights. This can cause you to become complacent and smug, leading to laziness and a lack of self-development and a belief in your superiority over other humans. In other situations, you can feel that you fall short or are lacking in some way. This is a false assumption, too. You may merely not have the life experience or information to hand that the other has. You may have had a much poorer start in life; maybe unsupported as a youngster or with a poor educational system. You simply cannot hold yourself up against another and find a reasonable comparison. Even within families, each child will have had a completely unique experience being born at a different time, when your parents or carers could have been experiencing different life situations which influenced how they cared for you.

The only positive way to compare yourself is when you admire another’s achievements or abilities and you can model yourself on them. You can find out what steps led to their success and emulate their dedication or education or curiosity. In this way, someone you admire, even if you don’t know them personally, can become a mentor and spur you on to do better.

So, please do not compare yourself to others as it is a completely fruitless exercise. You are no better and no worse, just different due to genes and circumstances. Find your own direction, ask for help along the way and enjoy the journey. Put down any negative baggage you have collected and you will find that you achieve much. Maybe you are a fabulous family person, maybe you run an enormous corporation, maybe you grow the best tomatoes in your province, maybe you can knit…whatever you choose to do, be proud and know that there is no one out there quite like you and what’s more, that’s a good thing.