4 Awesome Reasons to Compare Yourself to Others
Are You the Person Others Think You Are?
I’ve always heard that I should never compare myself to anybody else—but honestly, I have never listened. I’ve constantly been comparing myself to other people my whole life. And it’s been awesome. The common thinking is that by comparing yourself to others, you’re going to discover that somebody else always has it better, and someone always has it worse—which can lead to feelings of jealousy or superiority, neither of which are traits you’d want to advertise or fertilize. But the problem, it seems to me, is that we have a whole lot of people walking around thinking “I don’t need to change a thing because I’m super awesome just the way you am.”
Which from an identity standpoint (what you believe to be true about yourself) is fantastic, but from a behavior standpoint (what you show to the world), can be a grossly ineffective way to grow into a fully alive, emotionally and relationally healthy, human being.
I’ve found four awesome benefits of comparing yourself to others that have helped me, and I hope will help you on your own personal journey toward even greater awesomeness.
1. Other people can show us what we need to improve on. A wise person is not afraid to say there’s always something they can improve on. I’ve never assumed that I’ve got it all figured out—that there’s nothing I need to work on. Look around you and find people who have worked through some of the issues you’re currently facing and ask them what helped them the most. Thomas, the main character in my book The Messenger: A Journey Into Hope, is trying to wake up to the man he is, and the man he wants to become. He begins by asking those closest to him what kind of father, husband, and friend they think he is—in addition to trying to figure out what kind of relationship with God he wants to have. It’s a painful, but powerful journey to go on. Ask someone who cares about you if they see something you could improve on.
2. We can learn from other people’s mistakes. This is a big one I’ve grown up with—and it’s saved me from doing a lot of stupid things. We’ve all seen people’s mistakes (that they thought were buried in the past) come back to haunt them. There’s value in watching other people experience consequences of their bad behavior. This is more a tip about using wisdom and discretion when making choices, rather than living a secret life. Have you ever thought, “Man, if someone found out about this, I’d be _____________ (fired, kicked out, ridiculed, etc.)”? I’ve seen it happen! (It has even happened to me!)
“Group think” and the accompanying expectations of its members isn’t always bad. Sometimes there are good reasons behind people’s thinking, sometimes it’s just a cultural norm handed down through the decades. Either way, it’s probably not a bad idea to avoid doing those kinds of things, or at the very least, posting about them on Facebook. Hopefully we can find people we can trust who we take our secrets to, so we don’t have to drag ourselves through public mud.
3. Other people can teach us how to love well. There’s a huge debate in culture today about what it means to love someone well. While some people are justifiably raising their voices for “equal rights for everyone,” some people feel under attack by these ideas, only hearing what sounds like a chisel chipping away at their firmly held beliefs and principles. Listen to people and how they talk about “how loved they feel.” If you think you’re loving someone, and they don’t feel loved, then it’s time for some adjustment. Find an example of someone who appears to love well and try to do what they do. You might think loving someone means being principled and firm. But for most people, being loved means being unconditionally treated as a person with incredible worth.
4. Other people show us what is possible. Life is filled with unbelievable stories of people who created something out of nothing, performed at a higher level than what was expected, or overcame odds to experience greatness or redemption. We can learn from their struggles and victories to catch a clearer vision of what might be possible for us. The truly brave ones are the people who blazed a trail that no one had ever been down. Watch the personal stories inserted in between the competition during the Olympics. There are some amazing stories. Use the examples of other people to create a new vision for what you can accomplish in this life.
It seems that many people are so unaware of their surroundings, much less how their behavior is affecting those around them, unable to see how much we need each to be a responsible part of the community of humans. Many suffer from a disease of thinking too highly of themselves, overcompensating for a lack of true self-worth. My faith in God provides a solid foundation for seeing myself as the Beloved, not that I’m perfect, but that I’m loved. Armed with that grounding of love, and balanced with a healthy amount of contentment and gratitude, I believe it’s possible to stay open to learning how we can improve ourselves and our relationships with God and others.
When we take time to uncover what people around us are thinking about us, finding the benefits of comparing ourselves to others, we can then adjust our behavior to be consistent with the person we truly desire to be.