Sunday, December 8, 2013

Comparison is the Way of Life

Comparison is a strange beast. It can make you better at what you do or it can ruin you. Comparison would be similar to survival of the fittest. Although there are so many people who can just simply "exist" without giving a second thought to how they live (another blog topic). Comparison can give us competitive edge which if done well can lead to a positive ending.

Comparison starts from childhood, especially if you have a sibling. No matter if you have a sister or brother there will always be comparisons. Parents make comparisons and sometimes make it worse, "Your brother can do this - why can't you?" or they may love one child more than the other so one is feeling left out. Depending the on the age difference sibling rivalry can be severe or not happen at all. Large age differences will tend to have fewer comparisons - for obvious reasons - they are not in the same age bracket to compare. But later in life they can still be compared in terms of success in life and responsibility. The closer the age the more the sibling rivalry. Sometimes it lasts the entire lifetime!

Comparison gets worse as we get older. The worst is between friends - she has "this" and I don't! He gets to go to "this" and I don't! I got better grades than you! She got into medical school and I could not. Of course for girls there is the added comparison of physical beauty. She is prettier, has better hair, has more friends and so on. (Maybe guys have another comparison - like height or muscles). It does not end. I feel that teenage years are the worst years. There is the need to excel in studies to get into a good college, the need to have friends and so much peer pressure to try out new things. Crazy time.

College days are better. One starts to be their own person. Hopefully they know what they are doing. But after graduation comes job hunting. Another BIG challenge. We compare ourselves to our peers to see where we stand in our employment. Did we get job in a good company, how hard was it? Did we have to use our network or were we good enough that we got in through a competitive process? Do we work for a big company or a small no name one. What is our status at the company? Etc etc..... Anything can be made out such that one can brag about it. I still brag about my first two post docs and my first job that I got because of my networking skills. And now I can brag about being selected through a competitive process.

Not to forget that with job comes money. How much are you getting paid? No asks that but everyone wants to know and tries to estimate. Money has become our biggest comparison factor these days because it gives you a status in the society. Family members get to brag about you if you make good money.  So it is a matter of pride for everyone.  Whether you have education or not, or you are a good person or not is not as important as how rich your are.

And then comes the family. How well did you marry? How well to do is your spouse? Do you feel a sense of pride introducing your spouse to your friends? We compare our spouses to everyone elses' - its just human nature.

And for someone like me - unmarried - I compare myself to my married friends and vice versa. And for couples who don't have children may compare themselves to the ones with children.  Parents with two girls may have wanted one boy and will always compare themselves with the ones who were lucky enough to have a boy. Comparisons never end.

As we get older, we become parents and the cycle goes the other way. First we were under pressure to do well, now we put our children to do well. Our measure of success is in the success of the children  So the cycle continues.....

The bad part about comparison is that it can really cause depression, jealousy or anger. This can lead to uncommon behaviour in a person which might result in harm to another or to self. The negativity spills into all aspects of our life and destroys relationships.

On the other hand comparisons can be healthy if dealt with in a positive manner. It can make you perform better in education, in sports and other competitions. It can make you push to do things you may not have thought you could do. It could lead you to having a more fulfilling life.

As time goes on we compare our old self to younger self - oh we could so much when we were young! Oh I could have done this if I was single! Well sure. Some people manage to remain as active and involved as they were in their youth. But it is also equally fair to keep moving on in life rather than looking back and be in competition with ourselves. We may get better in some ways but worse in others (knowledge vs stamina respectively!).

No one is perfect, no one's life is perfect. We can compare as much as we want but unless we know the other person's story we will never make a fair comparison. The best thing is to appreciate what others have, acknowledge their life and try to live ours in such a way that it becomes an example to others.

Lastly, we have all come in this world to live our lives; we are not all supposed to lead the same lives as others. There are certain norms and expectations  of a society but for most part our life is unique and needs no comparison.

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