“Don’t compare yourself to so and so”—it’s pretty much standard advice these days. As the logic goes, comparing yourself to others is bad because you are unique and you should be your only competition. Usually within the same breath, we are then implored to be more like Barack Obama, Neil Armstrong, Thomas Edison, and so on and so forth. So I ask: how can I aspire to achieve the things that Obama and Edison have achieved if I don’t compare myself to them?
Despite all suggestions to the contrary, I have made several rewarding decisions based on comparisons I’ve made between myself and others. Comparing myself to other people did not make me less unique or less of a competition to myself. Instead, it made me strive to be a better person inside out and I’m going to show you how to do exactly the same.
There are three cases when it is perfectly healthy to compare yourself with other people:
Compare yourself with others when you are looking for ways to improve yourself. For example, if you are habitually tardy, there is nothing wrong with comparing your behavior with someone else’s if your goal is to learn to be more punctual. As any experienced programmer will tell you, there is much value to be gained from building on another person’s work. If you know someone that is really good at something you struggle with, compare your inefficiencies with their expertise and make adjustments as necessary.
Some people are natural comedians, others aren’t. If you are not sure why people laugh at all of Randy’s quirky jokes and they just smile at your amazing quips, comparing yourself to Randy can help you discover more about yourself. Of course, there is a fine line between learning about your personality and loathing it, but I address some of that in this article about finding an identity.
We are social creatures and for this reason, many people thrive on the challenge of not being the person that gets left behind. If someone else’s achievements challenge you to step up your game, compare away!
There are several other situations where healthy comparisons can spur you to greatness, but these are the most efficient and clear cut ones that have worked well for me. As you already know from experience, avoiding comparisons goes against the very essence of human nature. It’s almost like saying you want to control the sound of your sneeze. How absurd is that? Just like sneezing, comparing yourself to others is normal, healthy, and beneficial if you do it correctly.
So the next time you feel guilty about comparing yourself to someone else, check your motives. If your intentions fall under one of the three Cs above, dust yourself off and keep up the great work!