“I brought sand to the beach cause my beach is better. You can keep ya beach cause that beach whatever.” – Jay-Z
When I was young and I began a modest music collection, I remember talking to some people who were older who had scads of records and tapes. I had been so proud of my Back to the Future soundtrack and my cassette of Thriller when they had the entire David Bowie, Rolling Stones, and Grateful Dead catalogs. Then I got older and began reading thick books. The first time I read a Stephen King book from start to finish I was feeling so full of myself until I talked to someone who had read ten of his books. That’s how I learned that you should never compare yourself with anyone else.
“I cried because I had no shoes. Then I met a man who had no feet.” – Anonymous
We are all different, a fact that took me eons to recognize and to make my peace with. No matter how much we might want to be like another person, we never will be, not exactly anyway. And that will always leave us feeling inadequate when we compare ourselves, because there will forever be someone else who has had it worse than we have. There will always be someone who can put our story to shame when we put them up side by side. So don’t do it.
Instead, we should compare our current selves with the people we were in the past. While we may still come up short in our estimation, at least we know where we’ve been and where we need to go. If we use only ourselves as a guidepost, we also only have one person who can truly compare.
“We only become what we are by the radical and deep-seated refusal of that which others have made of us.” – Sartre
It works both ways, too, these comparisons. Even when we stop comparing ourselves to others, they are still comparing themselves to us, or at least to the person they think we are. You see, we present ourselves a certain way to the world, a way that we may never see clearly enough to analyze it. But they do analyze, and they do it all the time. Remember when you said you went to the Yankees game, and they said they went on the field and met some of the players? Recall when you traveled to Europe and were so excited until they said they’d been to Europe five times? These are the people who like to make others feel insignificant. Ignore them.
Life is too short to keep worrying about what others think about us and our motivations, to keep track of every single person who wants to try and one-up us. Just keep thinking about where you’ve been and where you’re going and you’ll be fine. What makes you envious of others? How can you get through it?