Let’s start with a Story of a kid, who is always curious and keen to learn everything. He has a classmate who is talented in each aspect, from Indoor Games to Outdoor Games, from Writing to Drawing, as well his friend is filled with Charm, Attractive and Confidence. No doubt, all the attention from all the people around him would go to his friend, which all the kids crave for.
Perhaps what would a 10-year-old kid think of being not accepted and not respected enough, just for being average in any aspect of his life? The failure and rejection turn him into constantly comparing himself with other kids, where he would set a huge desire to outshine and outperform in front of everyone in his school. That’s the good point to be motivated in the short run but in the long run, it won’t be working that way.
Unwise and unaware of the circumstances what would the kid think of? Perhaps he would strongly believe in the luck that he will think he doesn’t have for his whole childhood. He will always see life as a competition with his friends who is better than him.
Perhaps the kid never understands what made his friend so good at everything, it is indeed the environment they are living in, his friend has essential tools and resources to develop his skills, which the kid always lacked.
According to social comparison theory, we do this in an attempt to make accurate evaluations of ourselves. But at what cost? While comparison can be a valuable source of motivation and growth, it can also spin us into a tail-chasing frenzy of self-doubt.
For his whole childhood, the kid sees his life as competition always trying to beat his friends, whether it’s an assignment, sports, or even examination. That’s good in some way no doubt it motivates us to do extra hard work, extra effort. Perhaps the thing is when the kid can’t beat his friend even from countless efforts the probability of giving up will be much higher.
The most important things in life are internal, not external.
“The big question about how people behave,” says Warren Buffett, “is whether they’ve got an inner scorecard or an outer scorecard. It helps if you can be satisfied with an inner scorecard.” To make his point, Buffett often asks a simple question: Would you rather be the world’s greatest lover, but have everyone think you’re the world’s worst lover? Or would you rather be the world’s worst lover but have everyone think you’re the world’s greatest lover?
Comparing ourselves to others allows them to drive our behavior. This type of comparison is between you and someone else. Sometimes it’s about something genetic, like wishing to be taller, but more often it’s about something the other person is capable of doing that we wish we could do as well. He writes better than me, and he has supportive parents than me. Sometimes this comparison is motivating and sometimes it’s destructive.
You can be anything but you can’t be everything. When we compare ourselves to others, we’re often comparing their best features against our average ones. It’s like being right-handed and trying to play an instrument with your left hand. Not only do we naturally want to be better than them, the unconscious realization that we do not often become self-destructive.
Comparisons between people are a recipe for unhappiness unless you are the best in the world. Which, let’s be honest, only one person is. Not only are we unhappy but the other people are as well. They are probably comparing themselves to you — maybe you’re better at networking than they are and they’re jealous. At worst, when we compare ourselves to others we end up focusing our energy on bringing them down instead of raising ourselves up.
There is one thing that you’re better at than other people: being you. This is the only game you can really win.
No one can compete with you on being you. Most of life is a search for who and what needs you the most. — Naval
When you start with this mindset the world starts to look better again. No longer are you focused on where you stand relative to others. Instead, your focus and energy are placed on what you’re capable of now and how you can improve yourself.
Life becomes about being a better version of yourself. And when that happens, your effort and energy go toward upgrading your personal operating system every day, not worrying about what your coworkers are doing. You become happier, free from the shackles of false comparisons, and focused on the present moment.
When what you do doesn’t meet the expectations of others, too bad. The way they look at you is the same way you were looking at them, though a distorted lens shaped by experiences and expectations. What really matters is what you think about what you do, what your standards are, what you can learn today.
That’s not an excuse to ignore thoughtful opinions — other people might give you a picture of how you fall short of being your best self. Instead, it’s a reminder to compare yourself to who you were this morning. Are you better than you were when you woke up? If not, you’ve wasted a day. It’s less about others and more about how you improve relative to who you were.
When you stop comparing between people and focus internally, you start being better at what really matters: being you. It’s simple but not easy.
The most important things in life are measured internally. Thinking about what matters to you is hard. Playing to someone else’s scoreboard is easy, that’s why a lot of people do it. But winning the wrong game is pointless and empty. You get one life. Play your own game.
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Decoding valuable lessons from some of the Greatest Thinkers.