Comparing = Discontent

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Dangers of comparing 

 

We live in a world where most people consciously or subconsciously compare themselves to others. We have all heard of the saying keeping up with the Joneses, well, that has ten folded in today's society due to social media. Social media is mostly smoke and mirrors. It portrays a version of the truth. Some posts may be completely false as people intentionally want to give a particular impression, seeking some sort of attention or approval. Others may indeed post-truths of their experiences and their immediate circle, but again its also for some level of attention. To some degree, we all show off a little, perhaps you are proud of something, or you simply enjoyed an experience and felt like sharing, but to put it for all to see, it's saying hey look at me, and I am guilty of it too. Where this becomes an issue is in the process of comparing, if taken to another level, it can affect your emotional and mental wellbeing, potentially having long term implications (symptoms of anxiety and depression, cognitive distortions, affecting interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships, and even instilling envy).

 

On the other hand, like competition, comparing can be healthy if people are truthful with themselves and their life. Comparing can be the catalyst to motivate some people to change, as it can provide a way of assessing the need for change as well as evidence of change (positive or not). But as noted earlier, the issue lies among those that do not have a healthy outlook of themselves or their life, seeking validation from others and therefore painting a facade, and that isn't very easy to keep up. The narratives we tell our selves become our reality. People should not seek validation and measure their success against external things or people. After all, nobody is perfect; the grass is not always greener on the other side. Some of our imperfections are not so bad; instead of focusing on how others are better, focus on your self, your joy, and peace.

 

Yes, I don't live in a bubble; obviously, there are many things that require comparing to achieve certain things in this modern world like grades, test scores (SAT, LSAT, MCAT, GRE), fiscal year reports, etc. So, how can we find a balance in a world of contradiction and pressures? I believe you have to be authentic to all the things that make you who you are, to the work you do, and in your relationships. And concerning achievements and changes, identify legitimate sources that accurately provide what you are seeking to achieve, get educated, and see consultation. Observe and confirm truths before accepting it as your own. I offer this because what you may be envying or comparing yourself to or with (someone or something), can be inaccurate and not lead you down the path you would hope, but instead a sense of despair.

 

A testament to this can be seen in an excerpt from Russell Conwell's speech, Acres of Diamonds. The story is about a wealthy content man who received a visit from a Buddhist priest who shared a story about the finest creation made by the Almighty aside from women, and that was diamonds. He went on to tell him, anyone who possessed a hand full of diamonds could own their own country, and if they had more, they could have their own throne. After learning how much diamonds are worth, the content wealthy man went to bed very discontent, feeling now poor. The next day the supposed wealthy man, as he no longer felt he was, was fixated in possessing diamonds to be the richest man. So he sold his farm and all his assets and went off in search of diamonds across many countries till he was left with no money, starving and broken, at which point he walked into the ocean to never be seen again. In the meantime, the new owner of the farm that this once-wealthy content man owned had stumbled across a shiny, beautiful stone in the creek of his farm, putting it on display on his mantel. The old Buddist priest once again pays a visit to the farm he once visited a long time ago. To his surprise, he saw the beautiful stone on the mantel thinking the wealthy man he once shared the story to inevitably came back after successfully finding a diamond, but to the Buddhist surprise, he found out the wealthy man he once knew never came back but instead it was the new owner who found the diamond in the very farm they stood on. Together they explored the farm to find it was filled with diamonds, which later became the largest diamonds mine of the world.

 

The moral of the story, which can be interpreted in many ways, essentially has been you don't have to search outside for riches as you already possess them. This can be understood in the context of materials, but many see this story as a testament of character and gratitude (content) for this man was already very wealthy and didn't think otherwise until he compared himself, focusing on what he didn't have, leading to discontent and greed. And in the end, he lost all he had for what he thought would make him richer/happier.

 

I challenge all to explore and identify what it means to be content, not to be confused with complacent. To be satisfied with oneself, with one's life is not the end of pursuing growth as they can be very much independent of another. You can be very much content with your life, and if desired to achieve more, in that journey you should remain grounded and humble for what you may gain or lose in the process, as it is just that; an opportunity-an experience that which can be positive but should not take away from your self worth or satisfaction of your life.

 

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Here are some useful resources expanding on some of the main concepts addressed in the Blog

Research Study

http://www.communicationcache.com/uploads/1/0/8/8/10887248/theory_and_research_concerning_social_comparisons_of_personal_attributes.pdf

Religious source

https://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/articles/spiritualformation/findingcomparisons.html

Commentator

https://www.forbes.com/sites/kathycaprino/2017/08/18/when-comparing-yourself-to-others-turns-self-destructive/#1f2fd2626539

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