It was an ordinary day when my little brother came home upset after visiting his friend a few blocks away and said he liked his friend’s house better than ours. This was before he went on to bluntly say he wished we had more furniture like his friend, a bigger flat screen TV like his friend, and even a better older sister like his friend (what music to my ears). Ironically though, his friend told him the same thing—just minus the furniture, the flat screen TV, and the older sister thing.
It’s with this simple, every day encounter that I realized that despite growing up with guardians who kept us motivated with a regular dose of sometimes unbelievable compliments about how beautiful and smart we are, there is always a void that exists within us that we think others have filled within themselves. And so we start to compare.
Honing that void inside me is how I grew up and regretfully developed my unforgiving insecurity. My self-doubt and susceptibility to liken myself to others was at its peak during the hard-hitting, nostalgic stage of puberty. I remember how I felt bad about almost everything—having rabbit teeth, having a small allowance, not being bright enough, and so much more that reminiscing about it already gives me a headache.
Although, there’s nothing wrong in comparing ourselves to someone else to draw motivation in achieving our goals in academics or even our orgs. It’s actually a pretty common thing that there was a theory made about it: according to social psychologist Leon Festinger’s social comparison theory, we measure our worth by the success and failure of others against our own. Yet there should always be a point where we draw the line. Because the longer we let ourselves compare, the more we’ll be susceptible to developing an inferiority complex where we see the best in other people and the worst in ourselves. And in the long run, we start to believe that constantly weighing ourselves against other people is something normal—when it slowly and painfully rips away our self-worth instead.
Nothing like the picture-perfect versions of ourselves created by our inventive minds, we are humans designed with flaws and susceptibility to make mistakes. Comparing ourselves to the accomplishments of other people is a losing game, because someone will always trump us in something. If we try to equate the most detailed part of our being to other people or what other people have, then we’ll just find ourselves painfully and tiresomely tracking an endless pavement of jealousy and discontent. We’ll continuously walk unaware of our bleeding soles and our bruised self-esteem, all while keeping our eyes on something else we wish we had, rather than embracing and honing what we do have.
By becoming too focused on the achievements of other people rather than our own, it might become easier for us to see the beauty in others than to see the beauty in ourselves. Through the unhealthy custom of comparison, we weaken our potential to become better versions of ourselves and someone we’re proud to be.
It’s just a matter of perspective, and one day we’ll realize that there’s no need to compare and to change if we learn to embrace—embrace who we are and what we have. No matter how people tease you for your pimple-splattered face or how much of a joke your teeth are, these things are yours and there is no reason for you to change a thing just because you feel of no great concern under the shadows of much “better” people. It’s only then will we understand that accepting our own individuality will enable us to grasp that we are beyond compare after all.
Just like what my good friend Socrates said, “He who is not contented with what he has, would not be contented with what he would like to have.” We might not have the luxury of my brother’s friend, but we are in control of our lives—and this alone can do a great deal. If we decide to stop feeling limited and start being contented, then we can achieve something far greater than any material thing we ever dream to have—happiness.