Comparing to other causes stress, should I be doing it?
My grandfather on my mother’s side taught me a lot. One of the nuggets he dropped at one point that stuck with me was “check yourself against others”. What he meant was for me not to only do my thing and ignore what others were doing, but to compare my output against others output. At least that’s how I understood it. It sounded logic to me. If you’re running after a football ball, there is usually someone from another team trying to do the same, and his/her aim is to get to the same ball before you do. So, you can either trust your pace is right (and maybe get the ball, or perhaps not), you can run as fast as you can to make sure you do get the ball (but that’s not sustainable in the longer run), or you can check your speed against the other player’s speed and try to be above that. Look at any level of football, and you see that happening, from Junior leagues to Champions League.
So I’ve internalised that and started doing it for everything in my life. Comparing grades at first, then comparing cars, - I was never very good at the clothes thing, so skipped that one - then comparing jobs and roles and then personal lives like girlfriends, travel, houses and (indirectly) how much money they made. I began to increasingly become envious (about them), frustrated (with myself), and finally just really sad. I know now that I am not alone in this negative cycle. Many people experience the same. Actually, more and more people experience the same, and only recently we’ve started seeing some pushback on the imagined lives that are shown on social media and the real lives people lead. A recent article that sums it up nicely is called “Focus on your own shit” and that increasingly makes sense to me. Maybe I do know or read from people who are working for Google, or living in California, or travelling all over, or talking at conferences or writing books or all of the above. So if you, like me, compare yourself to that and you’re just sitting in your flat alone, typing away on a post no one will likely read on a grey and cold day, with a broken heating system. Well, you feel sucky. My escape of choice is watching basketball games or Netflix, educating myself to level up or go to the movies to ignore this reality. Just like a depressed shooting star.
What I don’t know is whether the people I envy from before are happy and healthy like this. Now and then I see glances that they’re not, but that could be me rationalising my situation. Facebook/Instagram-life rarely mirrors the mundane or the sad moments; it reflects the “best of”.
So should I measure myself against others in a game which is now worldwide since I’m competing with Ukrainians and Brazilians and Chinese? Should I ignore that world and focus on my bubble? Or should I do a bit of both?