Ignore what everyone else is doing.
Your life is not about everyone else;
it’s about you. Instead of focusing on their path, pay attention to your own.
That’s where your journey is taking place.
Comparison is one of the most common reasons why we experience sadness. I admit that comparison has stolen my joy on many occasions. It got to the stage where I was often embarrassed by my life because it wasn’t as attractive as the lives of those around me. I remember during school I’d rarely invite my friends to my house because I felt embarrassed by its size and condition.
It’s very difficult in this world not to compare yourself with others. During one of my meditations, I came across a memory of a wedding I attended as a child. I joined in some games with the other kids; I must have only been 10 years old. There was a boy who was a few years older than me and he was dictating what game we’d play next. He appeared to be the leader.
There was one instance where we’d all stopped playing and this leader took a good look around at us all to see what we were wearing. He was dressed very smartly in expensive designer-branded clothes.
He was very rude to the other kids about their clothes. I started getting a little anxious as he was coming round to me. My clothes were far from expensive. I didn’t want him to mock me in front of the others and call me poor. This would’ve made me feel embarrassed, particularly as I was already insecure about my home life.
Fortunately for me, there was a distraction and I got away without being called out. However, the fear of being judged for my apparent lack of wealth never left me. It just got worse as I got older. On special days at school when we got to wear what we wanted, kids who didn’t wear branded clothes were often picked on.
I’m not sure how my mum did it, with two of us kids and a minimum-wage job, but she ensured we weren’t ever in this position. Nevertheless, if I was wearing Nike-branded shoes, they’d be the cheapest ones you could buy. I’d keep looking at the kids who were wearing the expensive ones, feeling poor and insignificant. I wanted what they had and these moments reminded me of everything I lacked.
Children can acquire the habit of comparing themselves to others from their parents. Parents want the best for their child, so they might celebrate other kids as a way to motivate their own child to do better. For example, they might say, ‘Saira got straight As in her exams. She’s so bright and has an amazing future ahead of her.
As harmless as the intention might be, this has the potential to undermine a child’s abilities, especially if they’re not being praised for their achievements, too. If direct comparisons are drawn, then a child can feel degraded and worthless. Lines such as, ‘You should be as smart as Saira,’ are extremely damaging and can leave a child forever feeling that they’re not good enough.
Brand marketing encourages us to draw comparisons all the time. You’re not trendy if it’s not Apple, you’re not successful if it’s not Lamborghini and you’re not fashionable if it’s not something an A-list celebrity wore. These implications are made through cunning marketing strategies devised to prey on fear and low self-esteem.
When we compare, we always look at those who we perceive to be doing better than us; rarely do we look at those who are facing bigger struggles than us. So we never feel grateful for what we do have.
Looking to others for inspirationis fine, but there’s a difference between inspiration and envy.
The rise of social media is proving problematic, too. Younger age groups of children and adults are now becoming heavily absorbed in it, unaware that social media presents rose-tinted versions of life as the truth, and it’s against this fiction that they’re comparing themselves.
I’ve learned that sometimes real couples who are on the brink of giving up on their relationship will post a multitude of loving images online so that no one realizes what they’re going through and judges them. (Not that these couples would be likely to share their arguments and disagreements online instead; no one says halfway through an argument, ‘Hold on, let me take a picture of this.’) People will post remarks saluting how amazing the couple’s relationship is and how they wish they could have the same thing – drawing a comparison. They have no idea what’s happening behind the scenes. We cannot see or understand everything from one shot.
Comparing our lives with others’ that we see online is a waste of energy. People only share photos in which they look attractive, happy and successful; not when they’re tired, scared and lonely.
Similarly, I’ve also learned that some on-screen relationships are manufactured for the purpose of benefiting those involved – for example, to build up their public profiles. That’s why some of these couples appear to have more love towards the camera than towards each other. Despite this, their snapshots can still be sold.
Remember, if someone is sharing images or videos of their wonderful life, you don’t know what they went through to get it. For every triumph, there might have been a bucket load of blood, sweat and tears. Even for some of the public figures who are constantly seen online as being in love, there might be a history of rejection and bullying. For every gorgeous photo, there may be 50 that were deleted.
It appeals to human nature to turn to social media for instant validation through likes, comments and followers. When we engage with social media, our brain releases dopamine, a hormone that makes us feel good (and is also involved in addiction). Have you considered that you might be comparing your life with those of people who use social media to fill a void in themselves because they’ve forgotten how to practise self-love?
This isn’t about what other people are doing or sharing online. It’s not about what they’re up to in life or how far they’ve gone. It’s about you. Your competition is you. Outdoing yourself is your daily task, and that’s where your comparison should be directed: on the person you were yesterday. If you want to be the greatest version of yourself, you have to keep the focus on your own life and goals.
Competing with others encourages bitterness, not betterment.”
No two single journeys are the same. You’re on your own path. We all move through life at our own pace and reach different stages at different times. Someone else might already be at the most interesting part of their show while you’re still making preparations behind the scenes for yours. This doesn’t mean that you won’t get your opportunity to get on stage and shine.
Look at other people’s lives and applaud their successes. And then continue to pursue your own. Be grateful for what you have right now. And remember how far you’ve come as you continue in the direction of your dreams.