When I was young, my Mom insisted I shouldn’t compare myself to other people. She said that it’s not a good idea because it always causes envy and unhappiness. I bet your Mom said the same thing to you, right?
Yet when you look at advertisements in the media, they are all about comparisons. For example, when you compare your body shape to this gorgeous model, you’re not so attractive, so you should take these diet pills. Or when you compare your car to this latest model, your car is old, so you should buy the new one.
Adverts ask you compare yourself unfavourably and imagine how much better you would be with their product. The adverts work because they tap into a deeply rooted human activity of comparing oneself to others.
No matter how slim, attractive, clever, healthy and wealthy you are, there will always be people who are better off than you. Upward comparison to others, who have more than you, is absolutely guaranteed to make you feel despondent and unhappy with your lot in life. So my Mom was right with her advice to not compare myself to others.
It turn out however that she was only half right.
There are comparisons to others which have a very different outcome
They produce feelings of gratitude and contentment. This happens when you compare yourself downwards to people who don’t have what you have, and aren’t as fortunate as you are.
So if your house move leaks, compare yourself to people who have not got a home. When your car breaks down, compare yourself to people who haven’t got a car. Should your loved one disappoint you, compare yourself to others who are in an abusive relationship.
If you nevertheless still struggle with comparisons, then here is another suggestion. Compare yourself against the goals you have in your life. Simply ask yourself daily: did I achieve my goals today?
Every day takes you a little closer or a little further away, from your life goals. Living your life with meaning is easier when you have a clear picture of what’s important and your goals, and then if you review how you are incrementally achieving them on a daily basis. The review can be done through meditation, journalising or prayer.
So try not to compare yourself to people who have more than you. Remember the wise words that upward comparisons lead to envy and unhappiness. If you have to compare yourself to others, do so downwards with people who have less than you, and be grateful for what you have. Remember to keep your focus on your life goals what brings you meaning. That will bring you deep satisfaction and happiness.