If you reflect on the matter patiently, you will discover that most people lead most of their lives in a comparative fashion. They compare themselves to others, sometimes without even realizing it. It seems there is always something to compare to something or someone else. So much so, that most achievements are polarized, as if they are on some weighing scale, as if you must do better than somebody else to be any good, as if you must be like someone else to be any better, and so forth.
There is this never-ending race to compare yourself to others, to keep up with the world — to be somebody else. If you feel this way, the fault is not really yours. The solution though, lies in you. Read on to know what I mean.
From the first moment you can recall up to the present one, there has always been some form of comparison in your life. No matter how hard you worked, or how well you did, there was perhaps someone else who was better in the eyes of the parents, teachers, peers, and so forth. The goal, even when achieved, seemed unattainable.
It is somewhat ironic that our society actually seeks pleasure in winning and losing rather than in playing. Winning feels so exhilarating, that the absence of compassion in a winner towards a loser, appears natural.
Sometimes, there is even a sense of fulfillment, of joy, in the suffering of others; The Germans have a word for it: Schadenfreude. Do you really want to be in such a race?
Once upon a time, there was a young man. He was pursuing his doctorate in rocket science. He was skinny but intelligent. A beautiful young girl found his intellect irresistible and became his girlfriend. His friends were jealous of him. They tried their best to somehow cause a rift in the relationship, but were unsuccessful. One day, a student at the same university, a bodybuilder and heavy weightlifting champion, bullied the young man and told him to stop going out with the girl.
Our man was just over a hundred pounds, whereas the big guy weighed twice as much. The laws of physics were against him, yet he refused to be bullied. The weightlifter beat him to a pulp. The young man vowed to build his body and teach the other guy a lesson. He took a leave of absence from the university, worked out at the gym, tripled his diet, and drank protein shakes. In just under a year, he doubled his weight too. He was less agile than before, but it was a small price to pay, he thought. Determined to give it back to the other guy, he returned to campus.
He got beaten again though. And more severely than before. His friends visited him in hospital and wondered how he had lost, even though he weighed over two hundred pounds now.
“The big guy weighed three hundred and fifty pounds this time.” He managed to let out a few words from his broken jaw.
When you get into a race of trying to do better in comparison to another person, it becomes an endless and meaningless pursuit. You may experience some happiness when you reach your goal, the journey will remain flat and lifeless, though. It will remain a stressful trek. No matter how good you get, there is always going to be someone who will be better than you. You must set your own benchmark. If you must, let others’ achievements be an inspiration and not an aim.
The next time you are down because you are not like so-and-so, or because someone else is doing better than you, please know that you are being silly. Remind yourself that it stems directly from your conditioning. You really do not have to become anyone else to be happy, to give meaning to your life.
You are free to feel inspired by the success of others, but do not compare yourself to them – do not fall into the trap of trying to become them.
Imitation may be the best form of flattery, but when you aim to copy someone else, you lose your own identity; when you lose that, the very basis of your world — you and your inner strength — is shaken to the core. The journey becomes a drag, and the goal remains out of sight.
On Halloween, a kid clad in his night-suit joined a group of other children also dressed up for the occasion. They knocked at a neighbor’s door.
“Trick or treat!” they shouted in excitement and anticipation as soon as the door opened.
A generous lady came to the door and gave out candies, but was surprised to see one of the kids in his pajamas.
“And, what are you being today?” she asked lovingly.
“I’m just being lazy.”
As they say, “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” When you choose to compare yourself to others, when you determine your own value in contrast to them, when you rank yourself based on someone else’s criteria, you do not add life to your years. In fact, it is more like taking the life out of living; only years remain. Pointless.
Be yourself. Discover yourself.