I recently watched a TedTalk by Anne Lamott – ’12 truths I learned from life and writing’, and one of the things she said was – don’t compare your insides with someone else’s outsides. This really stuck with me. We seem to spend a lot of our time comparing our true self with the external aspects of others and then saying ‘I need to do better’. But the truth is, what is it that we are seeing? Unless we ‘know’ that person, have been there on their journey, seen their life story, seen their ups and downs, what exactly are we comparing to? Everyone has a story which shapes their lives and as we meet and cross paths we are all at a different point on our journey. There is no comparison. Just because someone’s life may seem glamorous or successful to you, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is, and even if it is that way you haven’t seen the journey it took for them to get there. Surely someone’s journey or life story is much more interesting than your perceived projection of their exterior. Then begs the question of ‘why’ you are comparing, comparison usually means you are making a judgement on someone, based on nothing more than your own inner insecurities. When you criticise someone else usually this is a refection of something which is lacking or missing in your own life and this could be from either side of the coin, for example someone who seemingly has a successful, happy wealthy life could leave you feeling inferior, feeling that you are lacking in the ability to create the same, but equally comparing or being critical of someone who appears to have a failed or lesser life than your own could leave you feeling superior, but for one to believe that they are better than another means that they are devaluing that person, and surely once again this comes from a place of insecurity and defensiveness, where you are trying to devalue someone in order to make yourself feel better.
Now I’m not saying that there is never a time when we should compare, a healthy comparison can ignite us and inspire us to do better for ourselves and the people we love, but it’s to know when you are making a healthy comparison or not. Does it ‘feel’ good when you are making your comparison/judgement or does it feel bad? If it feels bad then maybe you need to ask the question of why you are comparing yourself to someone else in the first place. What’s the deeper message for yourself?
When we are at peace, happy and secure, the perceived successes or failures of someone else only conjure up a sense of empathy or joy, an understanding of where that person is on their life journey. Comparing your insides to someone else’s outsides is not constructive, and limits or blocks your ability to truly share, learn and grow.