Inside: The truth about comparison is that it strips us of colour, demolishes creativity. But we can push back against comparison and delight in each other without needing to BE each other.
Comparison is a masterful storyteller. Supremely skilled at its craft.
The stories it spins are fanciful and ridiculous because we never know the full truth of someone else’s life and, therefore, measure ourselves against an illusion.
Even though I practice telling the truth – albeit a somewhat filtered truth because only select people deserves full access to my life – and share some of my struggles and journey with you and my clients, I find myself bewildered to learn that some folks compare themselves to me. Or rather, against an inaccurate estimate of who I am and what my life looks and feels like.
we’re not supposed to be the same
It feels sad and also slightly humorous to witness this relentless aspect of human nature – the pull to compare – even with other clearly messy humans. I get it. I do it myself.
(We may as well laugh at ourselves!)
I chuckled when I read how Paul Jarvis says he can’t even measure up to his own online self:
I don’t live up to my online self. In fact, I come up very short in social media comparison of my online self to my real life self. Online me is a fearless, straight-shooting, awesome(ish) communicator. While nothing about that is an actual lie, it’s not always true. Just like everyone else, I illustrate certain points and let people see part but not all of me.
Listening to comparison is ludicrous because what we want is to know we have a place in this big world – that we have a right to take up space and we have something of value to offer. But if we give it an inch, comparison pushes its way in, deftly wraps us in chains, pins us down, and sits on us to keep us from contributing.
We move through life heavy and weary, convinced we are less than, blinded to the truth that WE ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE CLONES! There is no “less-than” because we are meant to forge our own crooked path.
Logically we get this. Emotionally we don’t.
Another unhealthy truth about comparison is that it sucks the joy out of us, pummels our creativity into fine ash, and lulls us into a false sense of security.
It invites us to conform, to keep silent, to not rock the boat.
Comparison tries to paint the world in one colour alone
The world doesn’t need another me, another Brené Brown or Joshua Becker – as much I admire their gifts, or another you. You’re lovely but you’re handcrafted, one of a kind.
And I like you. I like you messy. I even like you messy when you annoy me or make me uncomfortable. Because I love seeing people shine by being real.
I’d rather be rubbed the wrong way by people who are being honest than live complacent or with a false sense of security surrounded by people who hide behind masks or perfectionism, afraid to show up real.
I’d rather a messy world than no hard conversations or space for mistakes or feeling bullied into silence or submission.
I’d rather try things and fail and have permission to shift course and freedom to question and wrestle than pretending I am who I’m not.
comparison strips us of colour and demolishes creativity
Stop comparing so you can do your thing. Offer your gifts. Contribute.
Accept that you’re amazingly cool. Or that you’re quirky or imperfect and terribly rough around the edges. But help build a world you want to live in. Offer your light.
(Can you see a strong pattern to my writing?)
what if we delight in each other without needing to be like each other?
Can you conceive of a world where we operate like this? Where we model this deeply rooted self-awareness and self-compassion and delight in each other without needing to BE each other?
Comparison is a masterful Story Weaver – it spins lies of gossamer thread dipped in fear and tainted with bitterness.
The story goes there is no room for us. We are not good enough. The world only wants, likes, respects people who fit a certain mould. But I’d argue this is incomplete truth.
Not an outright lie because there are people who will judge or even hate you because you don’t fit their mould. Sometimes, frankly, I really just wish you’d agree with me so I could feel at ease.
Comparison can also tip us over into not just self-judgment but harsh criticism of those who don’t meet our impossible standards.
I love seeing people push back against the status quo, do things differently, buck the trends. I am drawn to people with strong and honest voices – even if I don’t agree with everything they have to say.
I have never once wished my children would grow up to be excellent rule-followers or mindlessly conform. I hoped they would get clear on who they are and what they believe. And live that. Offer that.
Here is another tall tale that comparison spins: the idea that we must do something grande or remarkable or flashy for our life to be worthwhile.
But what if you simply offer who you (really) are?
What if we look around and realize there is room for diversity. Room for wildflowers and roses, for the adventurer and the nest-builder. Space for the tiny home and the 5-star hotel, the teacher and the CEO.
How boring to paint a world in one colour alone.
What if you grow vegetables and share them with your neighbours or use your geeky love of math to somehow make the world safer. What if you use your skill as a lawyer to advocate for people who have no money and who pay you with gratitude but not loudly on Facebook. What if you teach or wash dishes or build bridges or animate a video game the way that only you can. With heart and vision and humility.
The world needs this. And you need this – because I think that we are each given gifts to use and when we don’t offer them, we stagnate and grieve for that which is missing. Because we are made for community and unique contribution.
Comparison, envy, jealously – there is nothing shameful about them. But they don’t deserve a regular place at the table. They will keep us tangled up forever in fear or bitterness if we let them.
You don’t have to play big or dream big… but you also don’t have to hide.