When I asked people around me what’s the one thing they wish they had known before, the responses ranged from, ‘I wish I had understood the importance of jumping out of my comfort zone and taking risks,’ ‘I wish I had the courage to speak the truth,’ ‘I wish I knew I would find the deepest fulfilment of my life in solitude,’ ‘I wish I had known that it doesn’t matter what my neighbours think,’ ‘I wish I had known that I didn’t have to do anything to be lovable,’ ‘I wish I had the self-belief’ to ‘I would change nothing; Everything I did, even out of ignorance, gave me the experiences I needed.’
All these responses made me wonder and reflect upon my own life. Out of the many things that I wish I’d known sooner, the futility of comparing myself to others stands out. I spent a lot of time comparing my life to others, rendering nothing. I always thought people who are beautiful and smart have it easier and they lead a life that is happy and perfect. But then I realized that just because someone is beautiful or has been seemingly more rewarded by life, it doesn’t mean that their path is easier or better.
One of my school friends was a hosteler. He possessed all the latest gadgets, owned trendy accessories, and the best of games. You name it, he had it. Besides, his parents would send him extravagant pocket money as well. I always thought he had a perfect life and was envious of him. He had everything that a middle-class child craves. The other day, he visited my house. My mother served him home-cooked food and talked to him about everything. Later we spent some time with my grandparents and played with my siblings. One day, out of nowhere, he confessed that he felt a little jealous of me, and longed to have a family like mine. Stupefied by his realization, all I could do was smile and say nothing. It was then that it dawned on me that whenever I felt jealous or competitive when comparing myself to someone with more materialistic possessions, I should instead try being mindful that they too perhaps face similar emotions about things they may not have.
Now imagine scoring satisfactorily in a test and being happy about it, but upon asking your friend you come to know that they secured a significantly higher score. Here’s the problem; you achieved your goal, but your morale went down since you asked someone about their score. We need to understand that this question is detrimental for us because everyone has a different timeline. We all learn things differently. The only person you should compare yourself to is yourself.
Often we do these social comparisons without realizing we’re doing them. It’s a natural act, I suppose. So the solution is to become conscious of such patterns and be on the lookout for them. Once you realize you’re doing these comparisons, give yourself a pause. Don’t berate yourself or feel bad — just acknowledge the thought, and gently try to shift your focus.
Let us stop competing with other people and compare ourselves only to who we were yesterday.