“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”
- Martha Graham
Last night I discovered a young, extremely prolific and talented illustrator. I went to her website this morning to learn more about her work and within 30 seconds I began to feel absolutely worthless.
At my age, I know better than to compare my work or myself to others.
I know to compare myself ONLY to who I was yesterday, NOT to who someone else is on their best day.
And yet I instantly compared myself to her and moreover, I compared my lack of popularity and success with her obvious abundance of popularity and success.
I wanted to learn more about WHY I did this so I can STOP doing it and I found an enlightening article over at New York University.
The Following is From: https://wp.nyu.edu/mind/2021/02/27/why-do-we-compare-ourselves-to-others/
Why We Compare
Comparisons are a natural human tendency and aren’t inherently bad. In fact, we do it all the time: we compare our current situation with where we came from, we compare our current self with our former self, we compare ourselves with others in our age group, and we compare our knowledge and abilities with others in our field. All of these are good things.
Comparisons Enable Growth
Comparisons allow us to form a baseline for where we are in life, and where we want to be. They allow us to take stock of and calibrate ourselves against our peers, against our fellow students, against our friends and colleagues, and against the people we look up to. They give us a sense of how we measure up, which is valuable information for self-improvement. Without the ability to compare ourselves, we have no way of knowing whether we have progressed at all.
Comparisons are Powerful Motivators
They can also help us become more successful, if we harness them correctly. For example, if you know that your friend has a bigger house than you, it can motivate you to work harder and make more money. If you know that someone is more popular than you, it can motivate you to study social skills more diligently. If you know that a coworker is better than you at a certain task, it can motivate you to learn from them and do a better job the next time.
Comparisons are a Feedback Loop
If you know that you’re doing better than someone else, it can motivate you to continue doing well. If you know you’re doing worse than someone else, it can motivate you to work harder and improve yourself. If you know you’re doing about the same as someone else, it can motivate you to change strategies and tactics and keep doing better.
The Dark Side of Comparisons
Comparisons can be a double-edged sword. They can be a powerful motivator, but sometimes they can be a strong deterrent from doing something. They are also not good for our mental health in the long term.
If you think about the people who you consider to be better than you in some way, you can often fall into this trap. You may look at the person and think, “I’ll never be able to do that”, or “I’ll never be as good at that as that person”, or “I’ll never get to that level.” The trick is to instead look at the person and think, “How can I get to that level?”
Comparisons can be a deterrent from doing something, but they can also be a detriment to doing something. If the thing you’re doing is something you enjoy, comparisons can sometimes make you more reluctant to do it. If you see someone doing something you enjoy, like playing in a band or writing a novel or playing chess, you might perceive that person as being a lot better at it than you are, and not want to do it, because you don’t want to be the worst at it. But that’s not the right way to look at it. You should instead be saying, “I can get better at this, and I will get better at this. Because of that, I should do it and enjoy it, because it will make me happier in the long run.”
The Uncomfortable Truth
Comparisons can also be a detriment to doing something if it’s something you find unpleasant or difficult. If you see someone doing something that you find unpleasant or difficult, you might think, “Oh, I’m not doing that. They’re doing that, and I hate doing that. It looks difficult and boring, and I don’t want to do it.” But that’s not the right way to look at it. You should instead be saying, “I can get better at this, and I will get better at this. Because of that, I should do it and get over my dislike of it, because it will make me happier in the long run.”
Comparisons are a normal part of human cognition and can be good for the self-improvement process. When we compare ourselves to others, we get information about what we want and where we want to be, and we get valuable feedback on how we measure up. However, they can also cause us a lot of psychological pain. It’s when we start comparing ourselves to others too much that we run into problems. So be mindful of both sides, and also be aware that everyone has completely different life experiences and luck.
Don’t be too hard on yourself – the path to self improvement begins with self compassion - NOT comparison to others.
Until next time ...