Comparison is an important concept in math and one of the most important math lessons you have to carry over into life. (I often compare prices at the grocery store, it’s pretty rare that I solve differential equations.) Comparison also has other useful functions. Is this bluegill bigger or smaller than this sunscreen bottle? (Bigger? It’s a keeper!) Is that bag of popcorn bigger or smaller than my stomach? (Answer: it’s always bigger… and my stomach always hurts after a movie.) But comparison can also be touchy when we apply it outside of math.
In my mind, and probably only in my mind, comparison is at the root of so many of our problems. For most of my life, I’ve looked at another girl… and then another young lady… and then another woman… and seen how much (fill-in-the-blank)-er she is than me. Prettier than me, taller, shorter, fatter, younger, older, cuter, smarter, etc, etc, etc… and that has always been my point of reference. The place from which I begin my relationship with this girl… young lady… woman… before I even know her.
In thinking about these comparisons now, however, I realize that there is no way to truly compare myself to any other person on this earth. The endless number of physical, emotional, intellectual, and even environmental and circumstantial characteristics that can be used to describe a person truly are unique to that person and are always changing. I have my own set and it is literally impossible for the same set of characteristics to describe two separate people, even if only because two people cannot physically occupy the same space at the same time, assuming every other single thing is the same (which it’s not and never will be).
So how can I really compare? It can never really be apples to apples. So perhaps my life would be more enjoyable if I just enjoyed being an apple and accepted the orange for the orange that she is without feeling the need to point out how, as an apple, I’m more or less anything than the orange.
(Although… edible skin? Apple win! But that’s not fair. I really don’t like oranges at all. Especially the way they smell.)
Granted, comparison isn’t always a bad thing. We can learn so much from each other’s differences. But the key is to use comparison to point us toward the unique quality in the other person rather than using it as yardstick for ourselves to measure up to.
Yes, yes, yes… all beautiful and thoughtful things to say. But how do you put it into action? How do you make that leap from bad comparison to good comparison? I wish I had the answer. I suppose the first step is admitting you have a problem. So…
Hi, my name is Rachel, and I’m a compare-aholic.
(You, in unison now: Hi, Rachel!)
Thanks, friends. Feels good to get that off my chest!
The weird thing: you will never be too anything to me. (Yes, you.) My comparison is always focused entirely on myself. (How narcissistic of me!!!) And as much as I try for good comparison (my friend Melissa is so much kinder than me, being around her makes me feel calm and grounded…) I often find myself focused instead on bad points of comparison (my friend Melissa is so good at eating vegetables, I embarrass myself eating around her). (Both of those things are true by the way. Melissa is the kindest, calmest vegetable-eater I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.)
The worst part of this crippling comparison syndrome is that I short change myself and miss out on opportunities for awesome things, like friendship, because I’m too busy comparing. For example, I work with an amazing pediatrician on a regular basis– she is kind and interesting and so different from me in so many ways, I find her absolutely fascinating and I think I want to be her friend-friend (as opposed to just a work-friend). (Good comparison!) But, she is a beautiful and stylish physician (you know, first class doctor), and I hate myself for saying this, she is… thin… and therefore, would never want to be my friend. (Bad, bad, bad comparison!) So I find myself hesitating when I interact with her, afraid to say the wrong thing or wear pants that might “make me look fat” when I know I’m going to meet with her. My rational self says, “Seriously?! WTF is wrong with you?!” while my jerk second-track prods me along down that self-limiting path. Ugh. That second track.
Am I the only one out there with this crippling comparison syndrome? (No, pumpkins have it too. Which is really unfortunate because everyone knows pumpkins actually are the best.)
PS: Do you like my math joke in the title? Not a very good joke since I had to point it out, huh? But I’m going to force it anyway.