Today’s post is by guest author Leo Babauta, creator of the blog zenhabits. I’ve found that one of the most pervasive ways that people disempower themselves is by comparing themselves to others.
One of the biggest reasons we’re not content with ourselves and our lives is that we compare ourselves to other people.
Picture it: you see photos of what someone else is doing on Facebook and think your life isn’t exciting enough. You see someone else who has a cool job and think you’re not doing that great in your career. You see someone with a hotter body, and feel bad about yours. You see someone who has created an awesome business, and think you’re not doing enough. You read about people who are traveling the world, learning languages, going to exotic resorts and restaurants, and wonder why you’re not.
Of course, you’re comparing your reality to an ideal, a fantasy.
It’s not a comparison that makes sense. You can’t compare apples to apples when you compare yourself to anyone else. Which means it’s a dumb comparison — why would you compare how tangy an orange is compared to a beach? They’re not similar things.
Let’s take an example: I’m out running in the park, and I see someone running past me. Obviously he’s a faster runner, and better than me! Oh, that makes me feel horrible about myself as a runner!
Except I can’t compare myself to that faster runner, because I don’t have all the information. I don’t know:
- How far they’re running (I might be running 12 miles and they’re running 2)
- Where they are in their training plan (I might be starting out on my plan, while they’re in week 20)
- Where they are in their particular run (I might be warming up, while they’re at the hardest part of their workout)
- How many years they’ve been running (maybe I’ve only started, and they’ve been running for 15 years)
- Their injury status (maybe I recently injured an ankle while they’re not injured)
- What event they’re training for (maybe they are training for a mile race, or a bike race, and I’m training for a 50-mile race)
- What else is going on in their lives (maybe they have nothing else going on, while I’ve been working hard, socializing, and moving to a new house and getting little sleep)
- What motivates them (maybe I just like the peace of running mindfully, while they want to beat everyone else on the path)
Given these and a bunch of other factors I don’t know anything about, why would I compare my speed at this moment with the speed of another runner? They’re irrelevant to each other. We just happen to be both running on the same path at the same time, but that’s coincidence, and nothing else is the same.
And even if everything else were exactly the same (would never happen), how would the comparison be useful? It would be meaningless even then.
The only thing I should focus on, as a runner, is myself. Enjoy the run. Learn about myself as I run. Keep going, and in doing so, I’ll get better — compared to myself.
And that’s the only thing we should focus on in life — enjoy the walk, learn about ourselves, keep taking steps and drop the comparisons. You’ll love the journey even more.