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The identity of comparison

February 11, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

I always compare myself to other people. It’s something I’ve been doing for as long as I can remember. However, I just recently became aware of it during the summer.

I was speaking to a friend about a topic—I don’t remember what it was; it doesn’t really matter—and she flat out said:

“Why do you keep comparing yourself to other people?”

I didn’t have a concrete answer then and I still don’t have a concrete answer now.

We all compare ourselves to others to some degree. As humans, we tend to look at those who are more monetarily well off than us with some envy and those who are less monetarily well off than us with either sympathy or contempt (usually not envy). But for some (like me), it’s quite the obsession.

Perhaps this is because I failed in the area of attracting friends at a young age so I always felt like I lacked the necessary quality to become the ultimate friend. I looked to others and thought, “They have a lot of friends. If I were just like them or if I had this one quality, people would like me more.” Since pre-school, the question “Why don’t people like me?” has plagued me. As a young child, it was a legitimate question, especially when I was double-crossed by the girl I considered to be my best friend. Now that I’m older, it’s more of an irrelevant question since the people who like me significantly outnumber those who do not but because I zeroed in on my foes (so to speak) as a child, it is a terrible habit I’ve retained into adulthood.

There was also the pressure to always be number one in school. When an intelligent rival knocked me off my top-of-the-class pedestal, I became competitive. And that is my first vivid memory of truly experiencing envy.

Now, envy is second nature to me. I’m not excessively materialistic although I have gone through that particular phase. When I saw my older cousin could drop a grand or so on a Fendi bag without batting an eye, I thought to myself, “I wish I could do that.” Later on, I learned that even though she had a high-paying job, it was also a high-pressure job and she didn’t like the person she was becoming as a result of it.

Some material things aren’t worth the emotional price you pay. But through my “green” eyes, I don’t see that. As the saying goes, “The grass is always greener.”

My big struggles are things I’ve addressed previously on this blog:

  • Wanting a certain career/occupation/job title
  • Being of a different race/ethnicity
  • Having a different personality/character makeup

The latter may be the biggest struggle for me.

  • If you’re funny, I envy you.
  • If you always turn heads when you walk into a room, I envy you.
  • If you are the life of the party, I envy you.
  • If you have the gift of letting things roll off your back, I envy you.
  • If you are self-motivated, I envy you.
  • If you’re not me, I probably envy you in some way.

I’ve built my life around one of seven deadly sins. And it’s causing me to be bitter, angry, and frustrated.

Apart from repentance, the main advice I’ve been given to curb envy is to JUST STOP.

I hate being told that.

It’s like advising those with mindless habits such as biting nails or fidgeting, to just stop altogether. I mean, quit cold turkey. Don’t ever do it again.

I guarantee sooner than later they’ll find themselves performing that same “mindless” habit despite all attempts to thwart it. Envy’s a bit like that. Creeps up on you unawares and before you can lay a chokehold on it, it’s already got you by the throat.

That’s not an excuse not to try. But at the same time, I accept that the battle with envy will be a lifelong struggle. If Eve fell prey to it in the garden, then I certainly am not immune.

This discovery has shown me that I live by the identity of comparison.

  • “I’m better than her because I have a loving husband.”
  • “I’m worse than her because I’m not skinny.”
  • “I’m inferior to him because I’m a female.”
  • “I’m better than him because I’d never be stupid enough to say anything that dumb.”

I live my life in a constant state of definition compared to other people rather than simply living my life defined by who I am. I’ve always defined myself by what I’m not (or what I lack) rather than what I am (or what I already have).

And so begins the quest to discover who Kass really is. I don’t expect this to be an easy task. When you’ve spent most of your life attempting to define yourself by who you wish you could be instead of who you really are, a task like this could prove difficult indeed.

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  1. February 11, 2010 at 2:34 PM

    It doesn’t make it easy when, everywhere you look, other people are making the comparison’s for you. Growing up my Mom ALWAYS compared me to cousin’s or friend’s. Even today she’ll compare me to my siblings. Granted, sometimes those comparison’s are good (especially when she’s comparing me to my siblings) but it’s a lot of pressure and it makes me automatically start comparing myself to other’s.

  2. February 15, 2010 at 11:28 PM

    I felt like someone got inside my head and played the thoughts on a movie screen.
    I remember a time, many years ago at a roller rink with a youth group. I have always felt “self-conscious” and didn’t skate. A friend asked why and I replied because I am afraid of people watching me make mistakes.
    His answer, “look at all these people, they are having a good time, what makes you think they are watching you anyway.”
    Ouch! but very good words. It has taken me many years to realize that I was not just conscious, but full of self.
    And yes, it does creep up on you. In quiet moments when doing devotions or praying. When you are out walking or standing in an elevator with two or three others.
    I also understand the part about letting others define who you are with questions like, “what do you do”?
    It is a constant battle of the mind.
    I remind myself often that God accepts me as I am even if I do not.
    I give myself pep talks, I need to. More importantly I take it back to God, I really need to do this.
    One day at a time.
    But, I hear ya.

  3. Nathaniel Carolina
    May 7, 2010 at 8:37 PM

    I too struggle with comparison issues, though not as frequent now, I usually end up comparing myself to the next best person out there, usually ending up being insecure and grumpy and all.

    But hey, in times like these, I just stop thinking at all, if that even makes sense. Beats the hell out of insecurity and all. And do focus on the good side; we all have positive traits to start. Don’t fret, we’re now two in this game. We can do this.

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