By Chhum Chanrachana
Have you ever wondered why getting a good grade is just a piece of cake for others while you’re struggling so much?
Have you ever wondered why people around you seem to enjoy their lives while you still can’t get over your depression?
Have you ever wondered why they already have a stable job in their 20s while you’ve been totally unemployed this whole time?
Have you ever wondered why they have a successful life while you have a miserable one?
If you are asking yourself these questions, I can say we are on the same boat.
The grass is always greener on the other side. Everything just looks way better when it’s not mine.
This kind of thought bothers me all the time. I can’t find the answer why I can’t be as great as others. I always want to ask people I admire why they are so good in everything. Even though they make mistakes, they’re still cool with that. At the end, my pride and zero confidence have got me nowhere. I couldn’t build my courage to ask them. I always assume that they might think I’m weird if I do that. You can’t just go around and ask people, “Hey! Why are you so cool?”
I’ve long been comparing my weaknesses with others’ strengths, even though I know it doesn’t make sense. I always have the feeling that I’m not enough. No matter how hard I’ve tried, I still couldn’t catch up with all of those people.
This mindset has been with me since I was in high school, and till now, it hasn’t changed much.
The Past Me
In high school, my grade wasn’t so great. I studied in a normal class, but I always looked up to the people in the class for outstanding students. They could speak English and French, and more importantly, they were all straight A students. Since my class was in the same building and on the same floor with them, I always overheard their conversations about their perfect score or how successful they had been. I couldn’t help but compare myself with them all the time, wondering why I was so dumb.
I kept wondering and did nothing to improve myself at the time. Finally, I graduated with an ‘E’ on my final exam. I failed math. The first thought that came to my mind was what I was supposed to do with such failure. Seeing my parents’ face of disappointment, I really hated myself.
I had known for a quite long time what I lacked, but I didn’t do anything to fix that. I just kept looking at others’ achievement and complaining how tough it was to be like them.
I believe it’s common for everyone, especially young people, to compare themselves to others at least a few times in their life. Only to what extent (intelligence, beauty, or financial status) or with whom they are comparing is the difference.
“Don’t compare yourself to others…” I’ve heard this phrase so many times, and I’m fed up with it sometimes. How can I not compare myself to others while I’m surrounded by them?
We all know it is bad, but we also know it isn’t that easy to break free from this habit.
A False Comparison
You can’t compare an apple to an orange, can you?
You may not realize it, but the way you compare yourself with others is no different from the apple and orange scenario above. Is it the apple’s fault for not being a good orange?
No matter how great you really are, you tend to see other people’s achievement, in one way or another, better than yours. Actually, this habit of comparing begins with your own mindset.
We were taught that getting good grades is better. Being richer is better. Being smarter is better. Being prettier is an advantage. We all grew up with this mindset. It might be hard to break free from this endless self-comparison circle.
As a result, we focus on the wrong things. We tend to spend more time caring about other people’s lives rather than ours. We fall into a serious habit of self-comparison. Yet, it’s just a self-destruction. A comparison without taking any actions is just a waste of time and happiness.
The real purpose of comparison should be to change ourselves for the better, not to look better. The question you should probably ask yourself is what you really want to be and whether comparison really helps you in your own improvement.
A Little Peak Won’t Harm
It would be tough and unrealistic to suddenly stop comparing since our brain’s developed this kind of thought process for logic and reasoning purpose.
Studies found that comparing ourselves with people who slightly outperform us could produce motivation and effort for trying. However, this effect is opposite when we compare ourselves with someone who is an expert, or who is way better than us. This would be an unproductive comparison, and we would feel defeated even before we start.
So, we should only compare ourselves with those who are two or three levels better than us. This way, the goals appear achievable in our minds, which is one way to motivate us.
Another way is to twist the direction of the comparison.
Who else should you compare with?
No one, but the old you. This is how you can actually see how much improvement you’ve made this whole time. Once in a while, you look back at your old self and compare it to now. How much have you learnt? What are you lacking? Have you achieved the goals you previously set yet? Have you gotten any better? Between the old and the new you, which one is better? By taking time to reflect on your progress, you’ll have a better idea on how you can keep growing.
Don’t let one of your weak spots dominate your whole life. Everyone is cool in different ways. It might be true that comparing yourself sometimes with others might help you to grow. But a prolonged habit of social comparison will instead harm your confidence and self-esteem.
The key to success is to find your weaknesses by learning from others and working on improving yourself. Keep your comparison to as little as possible. Stop wasting your time looking at others, and actually start polishing your skills. By only comparing, you’ll never get the greener grass. It’s time to stop looking and actually stand on the greener grass you always wish for by watering your own grass.
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.