Thou Shalt Not Compare


Self-Esteem (Photo credit: @Peta_de_Aztlan)

The vast majority of us, especially teens, have one nasty habit: comparing ourselves to others.  Such a mode of thinking is natural, but poses a bona fide threat to our happiness and self-esteem.  We tend to see someone with skills, merits, relationships, or possessions that we don’t have and then form a sense of envy towards that person.  As we covet such a person, we either react in jealousy or choose to make our newfound nemesis an example by which we can follow.

The tenth commandment of The Ten Commandments is: Thou shalt not covet.  This simply means one should not be envious of whatever it is that another person has.  Such thinking is destructive and can hurt us in more ways than we realize, even subliminally.  Comparing ourselves to others often creates a belief that we are inferior to them.  Having an inferiority complex causes us to ignore or maybe even write off our finer traits, but at the same time, makes us work harder to improve ourselves.

For some, this type of behavior can become extreme.  We find ourselves taking drastic measures in attempt to equal ourselves to those we covet.  This might go as far as working ourselves to death and/or creating huge financial debts, all just to raise our standards of living.  For example, some purchase new homes or automobiles they can barely afford, just to equal themselves to those they worship.

I’ll admit that I fell into the same trap until my therapist made me aware of it.

Misconceptions About Admiration

At the same time, we are likely to develop false beliefs about those we admire such as:

  • This person is successful in everything he/she does.
  • This person is more worthy of happiness than me.
  • This person always feels good about themself and is usually happy.
  • Since I am not like them, there must be something terribly wrong with me.
  • Everybody loves him or her
  • He or she glides through life with minimal resistance
  • They were just born that way

None of the above statements are true.  Sure enough, the person you’re comparing yourself to encountered problems and obstacles along the way.  No matter how deep their feelings may seem, acquiring their finer trait(s) was no walk in the park by any means.  More than likely, they’ve made mistakes and suffered setbacks as well.  Who knows?  They may envy someone who does better.

One’s Overall Value Can’t Be Appraised

Is there a formula by which we can measure our self-worth?  Absolutely not!  Humans are complex beings comprised of a variety of components, that when combined, make each person what he or she truly is.  Such components may be one’s state of health, gender, culture, geographic location, genetics, background, skills, personality, strengths, weaknesses, habits, likes, dislikes, religion, convictions, and personal values, just to name a few.  Each person is unique in his or her own ways.  Likewise, a person’s traits are formed based on their upbringing, past experiences, lifestyle, education, and how they have been affected by those around them.  Wealth (or lack of it) also is a factor that greatly influences one’s quality of life.  The degree of discipline and ambition one has also determines their final outcome.

One who grows up in a supportive, positive environment is more likely to be successful than another who was raised in a condemning, negative setting.  How we were treated since early childhood greatly influences our self-worth and personal outlook on life.  If we were raised with adequate guidance and support, our end product is likely to be superior to those who were not.

Yet another factor arises: our personal value systems.  From early childhood, each individual develops their own unique set of interests, hobbies, and convictions.  Our systems are influenced by our experiences, past accomplishments, and the conditioning we receive from those around us.

For example, some love sports and thus feel the need to perform well during games while others value attaining intellectual qualities.  Hence, because an athlete is more concerned about being a good team player, he may not care about how great (or poor) his math skills are.  Likewise, one who excels in math, English, and history courses may not care how physically fit she is.  Those who love fast, powerful motorized vehicles, feel that it is important that they own a nice car or motorcycle.  On the other hand, one who wants to become a musician feels it is most essential to have a nice electric guitar and audio gear.

So, the point here is, being that each individual is made up of thousands of unique pieces, is there a single value that each person can be assessed at?  Absolutely not!  While we can assess property values on homes or blue-book values on cars, there is no single, simple appraisal system we can apply to human beings.

Comparing one person to another is like comparing one tool to another.  Can we really say that hammers are better tools than saws?  Are wrenches better than screw drivers?  No.  If you need to drive a nail into a wall, a screwdriver obviously won’t work as well as a hammer.  Then, could we say that a hammer is overall a more useful tool than a screw driver?  For that particular job, yes, but for all jobs, no.

Hence, comparing a hammer to a screw driver is much like comparing ourselves to other people.  Each person has their own unique set of values and skills like each type of tool has its own purposes.  There is no one single tool that does everything.  Likewise, there is no one single person with every skill and quality.

OK, let’s make the comparison fair.  Imagine comparing one football player to another.  While both players love football and excel at it, one is not necessarily a better player than the other.  While the first player may make a great tackler, the second may be able to run fast and throw the ball far.  Although one player has helped his team score more touchdowns than the other, the overall self-worth of the first is not greater than the second.  Can you truly say that one is more deserving of a loving relationship than another based on how they perform on the field?  No.

Comparing both players is as foolish as comparing ourselves with others.

What Separates You From the One You Envy?

Unless you’ve known this person all of your life, this question may be impossible to answer.  Why does he/she have some quality you lack?  There could be a number of reasons for this.  Possibly he or she:

  • Knows people who have helped him/her achieve this quality.
  • Has worked at developing this trait longer than you have.
  • Had or has access to resources that have benefited him/her (such as training, coaching, books, software, equipment, etc) that you don’t.
  • Has had more positive support from peers.

Hence, it is absolutely foolish to compare yourself to this person.  Trying to keep up with or outdo this person is like racing a race car with a pickup truck.  Of course, the race car will win because it was built specifically for racing while the truck was not.  Does that make the pickup truck totally worthless?  No.

Next time you catch yourself comparing yourself to another, STOP!  You are not of lesser value, but are just different.  Remember, you have qualities this person lacks.

Anything I left out or could have said better?  Comments are appreciated.


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