Beware of Comparison!

I came across a quote the other day (below) that got me thinking.

“The things that make me different are the things that make ME”


As individuals we are wonderfully unique. Every single one of us are truly individual with a perfectly unique blend of characteristics, skills and abilities that only WE have. It is something that is often talked about in very positive terms by wellbeing promoters because very often it is our own uniqueness that can cause us problems. There is a part of many of us that wants to be the same as everyone else and our wonderful differences can be something we find uncomfortable.

But as a society it would be simply no good if everyone was exactly the same. Think about your own circle of friends, there might be some you ‘d go to because you know they will always find a way of cheering you up, others because you know they are massively  practical and will help you out with ‘tasks’ then are those who just ‘know things’, those who are so organised they really ought to work in government and those who have a great way of remembering things.

So why on earth would we want to all be the same! Well, there is something quite safe and comforting about being the same, blending in, not standing out. Many of the people that we admire or look up to are those who weren’t afraid to stand up, stand out and be counted. But sadly, what we also learn from history is that doing that can be uncomfortable or even dangerous.

Maybe in fact the problem is not with us as individuals but with a society that seems to want everyone to be the same. Even something very straightforward like sizes for clothes only cater for ‘standard’ shapes and sizes. But we know that people come in all different shapes and sizes and that’s ok as long as they don’t want to shop in the high street retailers! It’s the same with schools we know children all learn in different ways, we have even identified different styles for the ways people learn, but we test all children in pretty much the same way and structure the majority of schools to suit the majority not individuals.We might make a passing wave at individuality mentioning it in values or mission statements but then try and squeeze everyone into roughly the same shaped mould.

We will all have read in the news about the ‘problem’ of people comparing themselves to others, particularly on social media but that is just a relatively new vehicle that makes comparison easier – we as humans have always compared ourselves to others. We may be able to blame social media for all sorts of ills but I’m not sure we can really lay comparison at its door. When it comes to comparison the problem is that we usually come up wanting. That is often how we judge ourselves, we aren’t as good as, not as attractive as, don’t have as many followers as, don’t travel to as many places as…….. and so it goes on.

Problems with Comparing Ourselves to Others

Life isn’t fair – It will certainly be the case that some people can do things better than we can. They may have had a whole bunch of better opportunities so comparing what we can do with what they can do may not be a level playing field.

What we see might not be accurate – Comparison can also be motivating, reading biographies of people who have triumphed over great odds can definitely be inspiring and make us aim higher. But they can also make us feel somewhat inadequate. We are also aware of people who have later been found not to have achieved what they were ‘lauded’ for or at least not in the way we supposed, for example athletes who were later found to be using performance enhancing drugs.

Then there is the issue of social media where the picture may be accurate, but it may not be the whole picture. The instagram feed may tell you they are eating in fancy restaurants, enjoying exotic holidays but they may also be struggling with other areas of life. People don’t tend to post much about those struggles. When we think about ourselves, we know the whole story and that is simply not going to feel as glamorous at those stories where we only see ‘snapshots’ of the good parts and not the rest.’

It can become a destructive obsession – What we know from recent tragic cases among young people is that comparison can become a negative cycle of destruction. Whether comparing ourselves to ‘peers’ or to some kind of icons the risk is that as our brain has a tendency to focus on the negative, we become a huge critic of ourselves, beating ourselves up that we haven’t achieved as much or are liked as much or becoming somehow resentful of others who have, or appear to have, or do more.

A better approach is to put some effort into valuing what we do have and being grateful for that and in establishing what our own strengths are and how we can best utilise those for the good of ourselves and others. Each and every one of us is unique. What is sad is that we seem to value sameness rather than difference, perhaps that is what we really need to change so we can truly rejoice in our unique persona.

“You are an original an individual, a masterpiece. Celebrate that, don’t let your uniqueness make you shy. Don’t be someone other than the wonder you are. Every star is important to the sky.”

(Douglas Pagels)

Find out more about living the life you want at

Leave a Reply