I HATE the word should and I just used it in the title of this article.
I very rarely use this word, but I felt that in this case, it was fitting. I truly believe that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others.
I feel so strongly about this because I have done this very thing a thousand times over. A thousand times I have said “but she’s already married and has children,” “She is so successful at her job—what have I done?” “Look how happy they look on Facebook,” “I need to get my life together,” etc. etc etc. ad infinitum!!
(Maybe this is a problem that is being magnified by social media—but that is a whole other topic that needs to be addressed at another time)
After becoming aware of this tendency that I had to compare myself to others, the next thing that I had to recognize is that I am human before anything else. Meaning, I will compare myself to others. This is human–it’s biological. We are made up to look around us at our surroundings, to see what others are doing.
I would venture to guess that it’s a survival mechanism. I am sure that eons ago, cavemen compared themselves to other cavemen to ensure that they would not run out of food, water, and mates. Survival of the Fittest is a Darwinian concept that we are all familiar with. The concept states that only the strongest prevail.
But, in my opinion, this just isn’t the case anymore. We live in different times. For the most part, in first-world countries, we don’t have to compete with our neighbor to get water and food.
If you are living in a modern society, chances are you have enough water and enough food. Chances are, your biological mechanism of comparing yourself to others is still very much active, too. And chances are, you reap very little benefits from utilizing this mechanism. If anything, you may even become depressed by constantly comparing yourself to others.
So why shouldn’t we compare ourselves to others? Because we aren’t all cut from the same clothe. I don’t mean this in the sense that some are better or worse-off, I mean this in the sense that we are literally all different human beings with different life experiences, made from different threads.
Our biggest problem as a society is that we have put more credibility behind some experiences than others.
I mean, think about it. We constantly are asking single women when they will be wed or have babies. If not directly, our society is designed to pressure them through television, media, commercials, etc. We have indirectly and directly sent messages to little girls that marriage is an important experience for you to have.
In doing so, we have devalued other experiences. By valuing some and not others, we are sending a message- whether we want to admit it or not.
What about those women who have opted to spend years of their lives in service, in the PeaceCorps, or in third-world countries volunteering? Or what about those women that choose to focus on their careers, achieve Master’s Degrees, and Doctorate Degrees, and decide to postpone marriage to later life?
Or what about those women who just do not want to get married for no reason at all?
Or what about those men that choose to wait to get married? Or what about those men that choose not to get married? Or what about those men who are chronically ill and have trouble finding a partner? Or what about those men who are victims of trauma and struggle their way through adult relationships?
Everyone has his or her own life experiences. When we compare ourselves to others, we devalue our own life experiences. Then, we begin to say to ourselves that one person’ life experience is superior to another’s.
Your experiences don’t make you better or worse than anyone else. They are simply your experiences. Your journey is to live them and make the best of them.