The Comparing Game.Escape The Comparing Paradigm And Be Your True Self (2015)
Chapter 1: Why do we compare?
Consider the participants at a 1000m obstacle relay race. Everyone begins at the starting line and is required to complete the same task with a partners to hand the relay off to and hurdles to jump over. The objective of the race is simple; the one who comes in first is the winner and everyone else takes their spot amongst the ‘losers’. We objectify our lives according to a very similar set of rules; the term ‘rat race’ didn’t originate from nothing, after all.
We have all been born and will one day die. These are the ‘starting’ and ‘finishing’ lines within which we exist. Despite everyone being handed their own set of obstacles and their own partners and support in life, at the end of it all, we still see ourselves as contenders within a race. A race that must be either won or at least completed without us being the last person to cross the line.
Life is never so simple and not nearly as mundane, but we make it out to be so. The dynamics at play on every level of society are just versions of each other. There are those that are ahead and winning and those desperately trying to catch up, and finally those who gave up a long time ago. Despite the fact that success, failure, happiness, and contentment are all states of being that do not fit any perfect definition, our society places importance on the black and white aspects of life since it is the only way to evaluate our progress. We cannot go in to the mind of others, so we create our judgements by observing what we sees; money, beauty and assets are the instant indicators of ‘happiness’, and it is upon those generalizations that personal evaluations are created.
It is not uncommon or even abnormal to compare ourselves to others, but it is still debatable how healthy a practice it really is. On a certain level, our inclination towards comparison is representative of our desire to be better than we are and to fit into a select group of people that symbolize everything we want to become. Certainly there are those who reap great benefit from trying to measure up to standards others have set, but such individuals are never content and are rarely happy.
Hypothetically speaking, there are no particular measures of potential. Nobody is perfectly aware of what they are capable of achieving, and that is the fundamental reason behind everybody’s constant need to compare. We all seem to think that because we are all born in to the same world, everything we do is comparable to that done by everyone else. We forget to take into account the fact that we all have different raw materials to start with and if there were a correct way to live, it would be to make the most of what we are given.
As mentioned previously, the ‘comparison gene’ exists to help us gain entry in to a group of people. That is what it is all really about; fitting in. We begin wanting to fit in when we become emotionally aware of people around us. We make friends and acquaintances and gain awareness about the various relationship dynamics that exist around us and we subconsciously categorise people into groups depending on whether we want to fit in with them or not.
Once these guidelines are established, our actions adhere to a set of rules; what haircut to maintain, what watch to wear, which brands of food to eat, how much money to spend on clothes, and what grades to aim for. Discipline, grace, and all social graces we pick up are passed down by this fictitious group of people that has set the standards for society around us. The inner battle we rage against ourselves begins at the playground and stays with us until our deathbed. Every milestone that we consider is essentially just a fulfilment of one more step towards becoming the person we think we should be.
Why do we celebrate our new jobs? Why do we feel happy when we lose a few pounds? Why do we want our children to get the best grades in their class?
More importantly; why do we not celebrate overcoming the flu? Why don’t we feel ecstatic when our family tries to cheer us up if we fail an exam? Why don’t we rejoice when the plumber replaces our rusty drain with a brand new one?
The answers to these questions are not absolute, but the theory behind them is. We all want our children to receive the best grades because we don’t want anybody else’s child to be better. We celebrate getting a better job because better employment supplies a greater income and having more money means having more money than somebody else, or coming closer to having nearly as much money as somebody else. Subsequently, we don’t care about getting through the flu because it is not an achievement, being able to recover from minor illnesses doesn’t make us better than anybody.
We expect our drains to be perfectly functioning and having a rusty drain doesn’t bring us any closer to becoming that entity we so admire. Therefore, we place little to no importance on the minorities of our lives. Little do we know that having a clogged drain may well be a great depressant in the life of somebody far wealthier than ourselves, nor does it matter. The mental checklist that we have carried around through our lives - the one that dictates our supposed success in our minds – is strict, absolute, and the only one we care about.
Our uncontrollable urge to quantify our progress, in time, becomes the controlling force of action on our own personal scale. We begin to measure ourselves against others. In the relay race of life, we spend more time looking around at the other contenders than focusing on running steadily ahead and moving closer to the finish line. We fail to understand that the finish line exists within our very selves.