COMPARING - We All Do It
As human beings, it is natural to compare ourselves to others. Sometimes, however, it can become problematic and an obstacle to our happiness. Whether it’s our homes, our clothes, our bank accounts, our post-graduate degrees or the accomplishments of our children, we do look at others and compare ourselves to see how we rate. Our egos are motivated by wanting to be part of the group, while also being the “best” one in the group.
Think of it this way. When I mow my lawn one of the first things I do, after opening a beer and celebrating my accomplishments, is look to see how my lawn compares to my neighbors. I am motivated by two driving forces. One is to be sure that my landscaping is in keeping with the rest of the neighborhood, because second only to our fear of death is our fear of being rejected by our group. Quickly thereafter, I bask in the knowledge that my lawn looks a little better than my next door neighbor.
Comparing can, if we do so in a healthy manner, make us better people. Unfortunately, comparing to others can sometimes lead to resentment, jealousy, or even schadenfreude (taking pleasure in other’s misfortune).
On the positive side, if we humbly accept that we are all human beings connected by having the same basic motivations, we can view other’s accomplishments as positively as our own. The concept of freudenfreude is the enjoyment of other’s accomplishments! I’m going to try to compassionately explore this emotion and feel a sense of joy when my neighbors yard looks as great as mine! I suggest you try it as well. Your life will be more joyful and you will feel more connected to your former adversaries, and in the end you will be healthier.
When you feel tempted to compare yourself to another, rather than focusing on the differences, embrace the similarities. This will foster connection, empathy and as much joy in someone else’s accomplishments as your own. Remember, if my neighbor’s yard looks better then mine, the entire neighborhood improves! The end result, ideally, is improved physical and emotional health for all!
Dr. John Monaco