Our lives offer up so much for comparison to those around us. It’s one of the easiest ways for us to analyze our own success, by contrasting our progress and position in the world against our peers. We judge ourselves completely based on the standard set by those who surround us, without ever taking the time to consider and understand why differences may be apparent.
There are the obvious cases, like school grades, and career success as dictated by responsibility levels or salaries. What does that really mean, though? An entry level doctor may have a salary that is comparable to a senior manager in a retail company. The comparison has been reduced to a simple fact that does not adequately relay the skill set of either party.
We might compare our social lives, analyzed upon the number of likes one person’s photo receives on Facebook next to another’s. One of those people may spend 2 hours posting, editing, connecting, the other might spend five minutes, and the result might not be indicative purely of that person’s likeability.
We compare where we are in our lives to our friends all of the time. We judge ourselves and define our own failings based on these unrepresentative indicators.
We need to stop.
Life is complex, it cannot be paired down to pure facts and figures. One person will encounter so many conditions that cannot be weighed against another’s. Life cannot be compared because it is a rollercoaster of emotional and physical constraints, challenges and achievements. Life is not a competition or a race, but a collaborative effort to succeed and survive.
Without our peers, we are nothing but a single piece of the global jigsaw.
Next time you find yourself questioning why someone has progressed faster or further than you in one element of their life, stop and take the time to think about the steps they took to get there. The truth is that, likely, while they have been moving forward in that way, you have made gains in another. People’s priorities differ, and that’s just the way it is. In six months’ time, the indicators will have shifted once again.
And so it is, irrelevant, and ever-changing, unindicative, and transient. The story of our lives and the reason why we should stop with this waste of time comparisons. Praise ourselves for what we do have, focus on our positives, and live through our struggles, ready to ride the next wave that chooses to take us in its wake.