As a boy growing up in Nigeria, when I misbehaved or had less than stellar grades in school, adults were always quick to point out the other child who was better behaved and had stellar grades. This is a situation I believe some people might be familiar with. Instead of focusing on correcting our actions, adults compared us with our peers as ideals we should strive to attempt.
This act of comparison I believe created a generation of people who instead of trying to be better became less confident and probably depressed as they compared themselves with their peers while making their way through life.
Charles De Montesquieu said, “If only we wanted to be happy, it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, which is difficult, since we think them happier than they are”. Extrapolating from Montesquieu words, the primary issue with comparing ourselves to our peers is that most people employ Bella Figura; which is the act of presenting your best face to the world. We end up comparing what we know/believe to be true about ourselves with the edit version of other people. This is a no win situation. We compare apples to oranges, though they are fruits are not the same.
Comparison tends to foster what psychologist Carol Dweck in her book MindSet calls a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset leads people to believe that traits such as talent and intelligence cannot be improved upon. When I began working professionally, I was so frustrated everyone seemed to know much more than I did, then it occurred to me I just needed the time to learn and grow into a more competent professional. In comparing ourselves to others we impair our sense of self and put ourselves in a no win situation. Essentially it is a losing mentality.
Thomas Carlyle said, “Every man is my superior in that I may learn from him”. When we look at other people we should be motivated by the possibilities of life offers and what we could learn from them. The point I am trying to buttress is this, comparison retards progress. We are all unique and need to find the approach, method or technique that resonates with our person to make a successful life. The only person we should strive to be better than is our former selves.
Our happiness and success may depend on it.
Written by Anthony Taiwo