“You should never compare yourself to others.” That’s what many people would say, including the famous Theodore Roosevelt who said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” But why is it that some of the poorest people in the world are still happy about their lives? Is it not because they see that they’re doing better than their neighbors? Is it not because they compare themselves to those even poorer and end up feeling grateful about the little they have? So does that mean that it’s good for us to compare yourself to others?
On the other hand, let’s look at the world’s rich and famous. You will not struggle to find a world-class singer or actress, who despite having millions of dollars and endless crowds of fans, is unhappy with her life. Why would that be the case? Maybe it’s because she sees that she does not have as many awards as that other celebrity. Maybe her bank account balance is not as high as that other celebrity’s one. Maybe she doesn’t have as many friends; maybe her fans are not as dedicated to her. In this case, comparison is really the cruel thief of joy.
You might argue that even in the case of the poor man, comparison is not good. If he sees that he’s better than his neighbor, he can become way too content with his life. He won’t have the ambition to work hard and chase a better life. And maybe that’s the reason why there are still so many people in the world who don’t grasp the opportunities they’re given to escape poverty. They have become content with their destitute lives. Maybe that’s why some children from low income families have very low aspirations. After all, if a child sees that his family can at least afford to have one meal on the table everyday, while that other family only eats every other day, why shouldn’t he dream of making a family just like his own in the future? Why shouldn’t he dream of being able to provide at least one meal everyday for his future family?
So should you never compare yourself to others?
Think about that girl that was born blind, the one who may feel very depressed about her disability. She may look at her friends, and in seeing that some of them are not only blind but also deaf, she may end up feeling better about her situation. She may, decide to be happy and grateful despite everything. She may decide to go ahead and live the best life she can, make a difference in the world, make her life meaningful. In this case, it would be useful for her to compare herself to others.
Now what about us ordinary people? Those of us who are neither rich nor poor, but lucky enough to have the full use of all our organs, and to have average talents and skills. Should we compare ourselves to others?
Comparison, when it’s done correctly and completely, will always help us in two ways: By comparing ourselves to those better than us, we can keep our egos in check, and by comparing ourselves to those living more difficult lives, we can feel grateful about our own circumstances. That’s what makes me want to say yes. Yes you should compare yourself with others.
Whatever you decide to do, always remember that you are never at the end of any spectrum. You are never the best or the worst. There will always be somebody better, and there will always be somebody who is struggling more than you. If you are going to compare yourself to others, compare yourself to those that are better than you and let that make you hold on to your humility. Let that make you realize that you will always have something to work on, something to improve about yourself. But at the same time, compare yourself to those who may not have all the blessings that you have, and let that make you grateful about your own situation.
And as always, cheers to life!