Anytime somebody complains about unfavourable situations in his life, or feels weighed down by circumstances around him, he is told to look around so he could see people that are worse off. People believe that the only way, or rather, the best way to show gratitude or to become content is by seeing those they are better than. But if you really look at this philosophy, you will come to agree that it does not help as people think. I will explain this later.
Another ideology and behaviour that we should avoid is comparing ourselves with more successful people. Sometimes, we feel that placing ourselves side by side with persons that are more successful than us will spur us on. Well, this is possible. In fact, it helps. But then, if it is not well thought out and handled, it will cause more problems.
The first negative effect of comparing ourselves with people is that we lose focus. A good example of this can be seen when athletes run 100 meters dash. In this type of race, every athlete has his own lane, which must be maintained till the end of the game. In order to maintain this lane, athletes have to focus only on the finishing line. Should any of them look beside him or withdraw his eyes from the finishing line to look at those before or behind him, he is bound to run into another person’s lane. Apart from facing disqualification, an athlete that jumps out of his lane is likely going to crash into a fellow runner. This is the same thing with every aspect of life. Focusing on people instead of the goal can distract us. Of course we need people to motivate us with their life’s stories and achievements, but that should not be our main spur. Likewise, we don’t have to focus on those behind us to be grateful for what we have and how far we have gone because it will draw us back or make us fall. You will see the best way to do this if you stay with me.
If we keep our gaze on people that we are better than, we will think that we have “arrived”. We will believe that we are ok with what we have achieved because we will think that we have achieved so much. We will not be bothered with finding ways to improve on ourselves. We will actually become that proverbial one-eyed man that is the king in the land of the blind. But guess what, when we find ourselves outside our comfort zones, we will get lost.
If a person focuses his attention on people he believes are more successful than him, he is going to experience a lot of negative emotions. Bet me, such a person will encounter despair, frustration, anger, anxiety, hatred, jealousy, envy, you name it. Some may find themselves in an unhealthy competition with the object of their attention. Others may believe they don’t need to worry themselves any longer because they can never measure up. There may be the risk of developing inferiority complex or desiring to terminate our “oppressor”. By the end of the day, it will pay nothing good to compare ourselves with others.
The big question now is who should we compare ourselves with?
A lot of people may ask you, “Must you compare yourself with someone?” Well, naturally, you will want to measure your progress, and the only way to do it is by comparison. If you don’t compare, you won’t know the differences. You may continue to make the same mistakes or remain stagnant if you don’t measure your progress. But then, you don’t need to look outside when measuring your progress and achievements. Just look within you and the answer will stare you back in the face.
The best person to compare yourself with is you. Like the athletes, we all have our own lanes and finishing lines. That someone is better or worse than us should not be our concern, sort of. Yes, we need successful people that can pull us up, but we don’t have to measure our progress using their yardsticks because they have theirs while we have ours. All we need to do to see how far we have gone is to compare our present selves with who we were in the past. We just have to look into our lives to see how we have been moving up or going down. If we see that we have made progress from who we were in the past, then we should express our gratitude to God and to those that helped us through. However, if we have been stagnant or moving backwards, we should then trace the reason for this and work on it. There is no way comparing ourselves with other people can bring on this milestone.
Note that I am not saying that we should ignore the successful and the yet-to-be successful people around us. Neither am I saying that we shouldn’t allow their success to motivate us. I am only saying that we should not use them as yardsticks to measure our progress.