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How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People

By: Brian Kim - October 21, 2007

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Comparing yourself to other people has got to be one of the easiest things for any person to do. We can’t help it. People feel the need to do it in order to understand where they stand in society’s “hierarchy”.

Most people buy into this “hierarchy” that society has created and they want to be at the highest level possible of it, as well as know where they stand in it at all times. There are a ton of barometers to indicate one’s placement in it.

From elementary to up until high school, it was all about appearance and popularity. After that came the comparisons of universities fellow students attended, if any. Then came the all too popular financial barometer. How much money do you make? What kind of material possessions do you own? What’s your marital status? How many friends do you have? And on and on and on.

There’s a seemingly invisible set of “rules” that people have subtly agreed upon to play by, which has probably been initiated by advertising and the media in order to create this social “hierarchy” and play off the wants of people to be at the very top of it. The majority of people tend to play by these rules and because the majority of people play by these rules, it creates enormous pressure for everyone in general to play by the rules, to play within the system and be “ranked” according to it because that’s the system everyone is using.

So the question remains. How do you stop comparing yourself to other people given the “hierarchy” society has created and that the majority of people are playing by the “rules” to determine one's placement in it?

Don’t think hierarchy. Think journey.

Topple the concept of hierarchy in your mind right now and watch all those different pieces on all the different “levels” come tumbling down and settling on one, even, level playing field called life.

What most people who think in terms of “hierarchy” don’t realize is that they’re potentially, and most likely comparing themselves with false data, and they’re letting that comparison based on false data dictate their future actions accordingly.

The easiest example to illustrate this is with the financial barometer. It’s probably the top barometer used in society today and the majority of people realize that.

And because the majority of people realize that, they understand it’s imperative to “look” financially successful in order to be on top of the social “hierarchy”, leveraging that rule everyone plays by in their favor. To do that, it might and most likely means getting into severe debt. And sure enough, despite the fact they’re deep in the red financially, they “look” financially successful and that’s all that matters in terms of cementing one’s position at the near top of the social “hierarchy”.

But that’s not where it ends. That’s just where it begins. Other people see that happening and not wanting to fall lower on the totem pole, try to outdo the other in terms of looking financially successful. But remember, it was based on a false front to begin with. Then the original person seeing that, doesn’t want to get left behind and ups the ante and on and on and on.

You know that phrase “keeping up with the Jones’?” What most people don’t realize is that the Jones’ are too busy keeping up with the Smiths and Smiths are too busy keeping up with the Browns and the Browns are too busy keeping up with the Millers, etc. If you keep thinking “hierarchy”, you’ll always find somebody that will be “above” you. You can’t win that game. It’s a loop that will never end.

Everybody is taking a different path in life. The most important thing to remember is to make sure that you’re doing what you want to be doing. Other people will be doing what they want to be doing, even if it means manipulating their appearances based on the “rules” of the system to be at the top of the “hierarchy”, but that’s ok. They’re doing what they’re doing. You can’t judge them for that.

Some people might start their own business; some might choose to practice medicine or law. That’s fine. That’s what they want to do.

What do YOU want to do?

If you keep focusing on everyone else’s journey, you’re going to stop paying quality attention to your own. What I mean by quality attention is attention free from jealousy, worry, envy, strife, etc., - just a calm, objective look at your own journey that can provide answers to help move you forward or to even determine what that journey should be in the first place.

If you keep on looking at other people’s journeys, you’re going to crash and that’s what a lot of people do.

Focus on your own journey. Your journey is no better or any worse than anybody else’s. It’s yours alone.

It’s unique, it’s different, and it’s one that has never been taken, nor will ever be. Nobody has lived your exact same life, has had your exact same thoughts, feelings, and experiences that make up who you are today.

Focus on what you want and only what YOU want. That’s it. It’s your journey. Other people will have their own to follow.

And even after all that, if you still feel the urge to compare, compare yourself to yourself in terms of your own journey - how far you’ve gotten, what you’ve learned, how you’ve grown and you'll find that will prove to be one of the best barometers you will ever use in life.

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11 Responses to “How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People”

  1. KimH Says:

    Thank you so much for the great article, Brian.

    This is something I need to stress to my son who just started high school. I don’t envy him a bit, it was such a painful time for me. If he can keep remembering that it really is about the journey and not worry about what everyone else thinks, maybe he’ll make it through with his self-esteem intact.

    Thanks!
    KimH

  2. Tej Says:

    Do I have visions or intuitions? I was thinking about the same thing while walking back to my cube from lunch!! I even commented on one of the forums right away!! “Why parents have to compare their children with other kids of the same age..and define success in terms of how others fared and what others did!! Is it too hard to figure that your offspring may be different with different dreams!!”

    This must be helpful. I am going through a time that could be changing a lot of things, or none. But my parents need to read this. :)

  3. How Do You Stop Comparing Yourself With Others? - lifehack.org Says:

    […] How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People - [BrianKim] digg_url = ‘http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/how-do-you-stop-comparing-yourself-with-others.html’; ( function() { var ds=typeof digg_skin==’string’?digg_skin:'’; var h=80; var w=52; if(ds==’compact’) { h=18; w=120; } var u=typeof digg_url==’string’?digg_url:(typeof DIGG_URL==’string’?DIGG_URL:window.location.href); document.write(”"); } )() Author: Craig Childs Posted: Wednesday, October 24th, 2007 at 12:03 pm Tags: people, success Bookmark or Share this with a friend! […]

  4. Martin Wildam Says:

    Great article - great idea to choose the journey view.

    I like to see my own life as a journey and even the life of the others.
    I think this idea even improves empathy.

  5. Brian Kim Says:

    Hi KimH,

    Thank you very much for the kind words. I really appreciate it.

    I really do hope this article helps your son out. High school can be tough, but I think if he adopts this train of thought, he’ll do just fine.

    Tej,

    I read your mind during lunch ;) (j/k :) )

    Parents do have a tendency to compare their kids with others of the same age, but in the end, they just have your best interests in heart, even if it seems like they don’t at first glance. I do hope your parents get to read the article!

    Martin,

    Thank you for the kind words as well. I really appreciate it.

    You make an excellent point when you say it improves empathy. I couldn’t agree more!

  6. Cathy Says:

    You are such a great writer and your entries are all so informative.
    Your words have more impact on me than any of the other self-improvements books I’ve read.

    Thanks you so much and I will be checking out your other articles.

  7. Keep Ticking « Reason-2-Smile’s Weblog Says:

    […] Posted by reason2smile in .robert, Courage, Leadership, Person, Spiritual. Tags: grow, progress trackback “Don’t think hierarchy, think journey” BrianKim […]

  8. Just don’t comparing « the vacant space Says:

    […] Just don’t comparing How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People […]

  9. Brian Kim Says:

    Cathy,

    Thank you so much for the kind words. I really appreciate it!

    I’m so glad the articles have had such an impact on you. I hope you find the other articles will yield the same results.

    Brian

  10. BishopNeo » Stop trying to ‘Keep up with the Joneses” (they don’t exist!) Says:

    […] Brian Kim has an important post  on his site about you one stops comparing themselves with others.  It’s important because far  too many people (myself included) have gone into substantial debt while trying to live up to and bet the ideals that society has set of success.  As Brian states: From elementary to up until high school, it was all about appearance and popularity. After that came the comparisons of universities fellow students attended, if any. Then came the all too popular financial barometer. How much money do you make? What kind of material possessions do you own? What’s your marital status? How many friends do you have? And on and on and on. […]

  11. Tips for Life, Love, You. | Overcoming Self Sabotage at InMyHeels.com Says:

    […] Comparing Yourself to Others:  You look around to see what your peers are doing right now.  Somehow, this is the indicator of where you should be in life.  You’re feeling pretty ok about it - after all, you’re not ahead but you’re not behind.  Good!  You’re doing good and finally going strong!  Yeah, until Whats-Her-Face strikes a 32 million dollar deal with some company who thinks she’s brilliant or You-Know-Who becomes an A-lister.  If you didn’t have the boots to crush your own soul, take a step next to anyone worth looking at.  Then you quit, because you’re not worth it after all. […]

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