The identity of comparison
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.