Comparing myself to others can be a good thing but it can also be harmful. This article explains when comparisons become dangerous and gives a few ideas on how to stop comparing.
Understanding the Comparison Labyrinth
“You are incomparable” is a phrase that could be said for each person inhabiting the earth. There is not, nor has there been, nor will ever be another person just like ourselves. But even though our society celebrates more and more individuality, it is easy to fall into the temptation to compare ourselves with those around us.
Comparing becomes a danger when we start measuring our own value
Comparing, in itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, it is very human. Comparison can take us on the path of admiration and the desire to improve ourselves when we find someone who has what we want to see in us. It can also lead us through the path of compassion and availability when we find someone we can help with our gifts. However, it becomes a danger when we measure our own value in comparison with others. This takes us through a labyrinth where loneliness and hopelessness reign.
“He is much smarter than me, but I win on this one
The comparison labyrinth has two entrances, one more desolating than the other. For one, we are the ones who usually think that everyone is better than us. «He is much smarter than me», «she does know what she is doing», «he is so strong», «what a happy life she lives».
On the other hand we are those who praise our own qualities and reduce others. Those of us who are going through this one usually think, “Who is like me?” And we walk focused on all our merits. When we meet someone who seems to have more of something than ourselves, we justify ourselves by saying something like, “He’s better than me in this, but I win on this one”. Or else we look for someone we see as ‘inferior’ and in that comparison we look for some satisfaction and security. “I might not be the smartest, but at least I’m smarter than my partner.”
Living from one comparison to another gives us a distorted understanding of reality. We concentrate on what we do not have and idealise others or we exaggerate our own virtues and minimise those of others. These dynamics of comparison can be very subtle – sometimes only a very inner feeling that we would never put into words. And yet they have the same effect of taking us through that labyrinth.
Leaving the labyrinth of comparing myself to others
1. Be realistic – Every ‘ideal’ person has a vulnerable side
To leave the labyrinth of comparison, it is necessary to look at everything we have with clarity and not focus only on that which we desire. Yes, I have these aspects that are appreciated by others, but I also have fears, insecurities, and hurts of the past. How many times have we been surprised when someone we idealised or even envied showed us their vulnerable side?
It is here that we understand that within each person there is much more than what appearances and our own dispositions/insecurities allow us to see. But it is also here, when we have accepted our own ‘limitations’, that we can offer support, understanding and accompaniment to each other.
2. The value that we long for is felt in His words: “you are incomparable
Leaving the labyrinth of comparison means accepting reality: the value that we long for is achieved neither through our merits nor by our judgments that can often be wrong. It is achieved, or rather, it is felt when we look with the eyes of that loving God who, knowing well who we are, looks at us and says, “you are incomparable”.
“You are my beloved son. With you I am well pleased (Mk 1, 11).
Based on the Original Spanish text written by: Ulises Covarrubias, SJ
Translated by: Fr Jimmy Bonnici
Published: June 2019