Column #2 for Motherland magazine

Comparing yourself to others is like looking at your reflection in a mirror you think they’re holding. Instead of seeing them, you see yourself. If you measure your own being against someone else’s, here’s one thing that happens: you start to imagine yourself through their eyes. This is a work of fiction.

If I get into the groove of this kind of thinking, it inevitably makes me want to adjust myself. The problem with embracing that life is that it starts from an unstable and intangible premise – the imagined reflection – and it stays alive by stoking insecurity. Insecurity, it seems to me, is just the sly cousin of Schadenfreude. Insecurity spends a lot of time half-resenting others for its own perceived comparative inadequacy. It secretly waits for something to go wrong with someone else, to make it feel a bit better. It’s a shackle. And it comes from comparison.

Here’s another consequence: if you are always thinking of your own being in relation to others, then who you are – your talents and all that is good about you – starts to be worn away. It’s neglected. So instead of seeing yourself in your own right, investing in your uniqueness, you’re always viewing yourself in-relation, relative-to. If you want to diminish yourself into a poor reflection, that’s one speedy way to do it.

This isn’t a call for us all to become islands. It’s more about getting on with your own self. If I live in comparison, that’s when I really become isolationist. That’s when I’m only thinking about how things relate to me. Instead, if I shake off comparison, I can actually see the other person, the human. And then – there’s space. Space to allow what they do to be inspirational.

Space to feel contentment. To know that even if I have a lot of work to do, that’s what’s to be done.

Yes, I’m talking in idealistic terms. But my life can’t be an imagined figment of what I think someone else might think. That’s much too complicated. Separating ourselves from comparison is, I think, the key to a lot of things: contentment; appreciation for others; love. And those things give insecurity a good kick in the teeth, which is tremendously satisfying.

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