Who do you compare to?
It’s a simple equation. When we compare ourselves to others, we inevitably intensify our own suffering. We have it much better than some (probably most) but when we judge ourselves based on other people’s projections of themselves, we lose sight of just how complex the human condition is.
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt
When we think others have it better off we forget how they suffer in the same or different ways that we do. Other people always seem so put together, from your perspective at least.
We spend too much time thinking others have it better than us when we should spend that effort on making the changes we want to see within ourselves. Comparing yourself to others is like touching a burning oven coil to see if it’s hot. Only instead of smacking it lightly with our fingertip, we grip it with our whole palm.
If you are struck with envy at the sight of another’s success or happiness, then you need to look into what part of your life you want to improve. You should be excited by the success of others, and it should make you want to contribute to greatness in whatever way you can.
It is the feeling you get when you experience art, genius, or the beauty of witnessing a flow state; it is a call to action. It is an invitation to experience the awe of greatness as much as it is a call for you to find your way of producing that same effect.
It is contagious.
So who should you compare to? There is one person. The person you were yesterday. This is rule #4 to Dr. Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life. Consider the implications of only comparing yourself to who you were yesterday. If we understand compound interest and making incremental improvements, we can track our progress, our peaks and valleys and plateaus as we navigate the uncharted terrain that makes up our lives.
Who are you today compared to yesterday, compared to last year, compared to 5 years ago? That is the only question to ask.