What’s the personal harm of comparing ourselves to others?

Cindy JobsADHD In The Workplace, Health and Well-Being, Organization, Productivity

“Never compare your insides to everyone else’s outsides.”

― Anne Lamott 

Have you ever caught yourself thinking . . .

  • “I want to be like Susie; she’s so organized.”
  • “I want to be like Kathy; she has great hair.”
  • “I want to be like Janet; she is an amazing cook.”

I’m a big fan of the meditation app Headspace, not just for the guided meditation but for the daily introspection I’m exposed to through the pre-meditation primers. The other day, Andy (the meditation and mindfulness expert behind Headspace) made a couple of interesting observations that I will paraphrase:

When we compare ourselves to others, we take away not only from ourselves but also from the others we are comparing ourselves to.

And,

What we may be comparing is not better or worse, just different.

Hmmmm. After I processed those for a bit, I wholeheartedly agree. When we compare bits and pieces of a person, we only see a segment of the whole person.

For example, if I say I want to be like Susie and I’m only focusing on Susie’s organizational skills, what other parts of her am I ignoring?

Suppose I want to be like Kathy with her fabulous hair. What other unique qualities might Kathy have that I’m not giving credit to?

And what if Betty has ten other things she does as well as cooking? What am I missing?

Not only am I focusing on only a tiny fragment of the whole person, but I am also discounting my own qualities and assuming I am less than whole because I do not have that one trait I am focusing on.

We are not less than whole; we are just different. Like a pine tree, apple tree, oak tree, and palm tree are different, they are still whole.

Although I’m pretty organized, I will never have great hair or be a fantastic cook. But I am still whole.

A shift in perspective:

  • “Susie is so organized. I wonder where she learned that.”
  • “Kathy has the best hair. I’m going to ask her what product she uses.”
  • “Janet is an amazing cook. I wonder where she gets her recipes.”

When I focus on a small piece of the outside image I see of others, I am potentially overlooking other remarkable qualities about that person and, simultaneously, many of my unique qualities.

 

Cindy Jobs, PCAC, PCC

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