“You are so slow. Look at your elder brother, he picks up so quickly. So are a slow coach."
“Your sister is so responsible. Why can’t you learn something from her?"
“You should see the way she handles things. She should do this job."
“Oh gosh! His dimples are so cute!"
Comparison happens all the time. The human brain is designed to compare. We learn new things by comparing what we don’t know with what we know. That’s how children learn to speak, to read, to write, to play. They compare themselves, and then do some experiments, and then compare again. If we stopped comparing, we would never learn and improve.
So, whats the problem then?
The problem is soup.
Our blood is like a mixed vegetable hot and sour soup. It is a fine balance of minuscule amounts of chemicals and hormones. And the proportions of the ingredients are always changing. The recipe of the soup at any point of time influences every aspect of our functioning - from our organs, to our breath, our pulse, our taste. It even changes the way we see and perceive everything that goes on around us.
When comparison happens, and we don’t handle it properly, the fine balance between the flavours of the soup get messed up. That causes a chain reaction that ends with us feeling sad, angry, jealous, and even depressed. It’s a potent cocktail that affects us for a long time. It hurts our confidence, our relationships, our performance, and our health.
Here is a surprise. The problem is not actually comparison. The real problem is helplessness.
Imagine, you are playing a game of hand wrestling with your 8 year old nephew. You know you are much stronger that him. But you wish to humour him. So you let him win. He is very happy. He tells everyone he has beaten you. Everyone claps for him. And you? Are you feeling compared? Are you feeling jealous? Are you sad? Why not?
Obvious, isn’t it. You know perfectly well that if you put in just a little more effort, you will succeed. You are 100% sure you can do it.
Aha, that’s where the trick lies.
Lets say, my brother is better at making friends than me. People compare us. Now, I feel sad. Why can’t I make friends? The reality is that I am feeling helpless. I’m helpless that I don't know how to become better at making friends. It’s just not happening. If I was sure that by doing X, Y and Z I would become a people magnet, I would not feel helpless, right?
Ditto for studies, sports, fitness, public speaking, relationships, etc. If I had the confidence that I can and will make the right efforts, and I will certainly improve, things would be different. When I know for a fact that I can improve, then being compared with someone better than me does not make me sad. It is actually a revelation. Then, comparison inspires me!
Thats why I make it a habit to do these three things regularly:
1. Compare myself today with myself one month, one year, five years ago, and recognise areas where I have improved.
2. Regularly take on some challenges and drives to improve myself, learn something new, or create a new level of discipline
3. Proactively compare myself with people who are better than me and work on improving, so that I don’t have to wait for the world to compare me.
Doing these makes me believe that whatever I set my mind to improve at, I am able to do it. It creates a strong pattern of self belief in me. That is why I am able to see comparison as a powerful tool to learn and improve myself.