Comparison, Shmarison

I’ve always thought that I don’t compare myself to others, but if I look closer, I realize that I do and I do it often. As a kid, adults told me not to compare my life to other people’s lives. But in the same breath, they told me that someone out there had it worse than me.

“Eat your vegetables, some kids don’t have food to eat.”

“Go to school, some kids don’t get the privilege to do so.”

“It could always be worse, you know.”

I think there’s some merit to that, but it’s overdone and not always used for a good purpose. It’s like telling your kids that it’s okay to compare yourself to others as long as it shows you in a better light (i.e. you’re more fortunate than that poor kid down the street). But it’s not okay if it shows you in a bad light, as in, “Stop comparing yourself to the most popular girl in class, you’re pretty in your own way.” What’s the difference? You’re comparing yourself nonetheless. What makes it right in one circumstance and not in another?

Of course it’s in that “good” context where it makes me feel better about my circumstances. And again, I think when people say it, they have good intentions. Sometimes we do need a reminder that we are very blessed. But we need to come clean. Should we or shouldn’t we compare ourselves to others?

I used to stay in the gray area.  I believed it wasn’t good to compare yourselves to others, but in certain circumstances it could be helpful. Now, I’m not so sure that’s the best way to look at things.

I just read “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. It had insightful moments throughout, but this particular paragraph really sparked this post.

“I think that if I ever have kids, and they are upset, I won’t tell them that people are starving in China or anything like that because it wouldn’t change the fact that they were upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have. Good and bad.”

I think it’s good to be aware of these things happening in the world, and also to use them to see your own life more clearly. But they don’t define your life.

Just because there are people starving in the world doesn’t mean you should feel guilty about eating a heaping plate of food. But you should be grateful for having such an abundance. Equally, you may know someone who lives in a mansion, but that doesn’t mean that your house is any less of a home. You have what you have.

More important than comparing ourselves to everyone else, I think we need to be grateful for what he have while always striving to be better. After all, we could all be better, no matter our circumstances. Balance. Life is always first and foremost about keeping everything in balance.

Now if I could just take my own advice…

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