Reality Check: The Comparison that Works

If you’ve been reading Reality Check for a while, you know that I suggest not comparing yourself to others. Why? It’s futile, as you can’t control how others are doing.

Further, your comparison may lead you to believe that you are either better off or worse off than someone else. Either has its associated misery. So, I suggest choosing not to compare at all.

However, there is one comparison that can be quite effective—compare yourself with yourself. Consider the person that you were yesterday, last week, a year ago, or a decade ago, and compare that person with who you are now.

How is that helpful?

Geoff feels he’s not making progress. He has a student loan; he doesn’t own a home; he doesn’t have a loving relationship, and he’s far from the pinnacle of his career. Geoff is not where he wants to be.

Geoff has been choosing to look at his life with discouragement and resentment. He’s not reached his goals, so he perceives that he does not measure up to the man he wants to be.

This is a great opportunity for Geoff to compare himself to himself. Let’s take an objective look back at where he was, say 5 years ago. What was his situation?

Back then, Geoff was in a dead-end job that, if continued, would lead to a lifetime of minimum wage. He didn’t know what career to pursue. He was in a destructive relationship with a partner who belittled him for his lack of success. He was living with his parents and couldn’t afford to move. Most importantly, he felt aimless, with no sense of how to turn his life around.

Since then, Geoff had researched careers and found a choice that truly inspired him. That led him to a post-secondary training program which he completed successfully. As a result of that training, he found employment in a well-paying creative job and is quite enjoying his work.

He’s broken off his dysfunctional relationship and become more discerning about who he spends time with. He’s decided that it is better to be single than to leap into a bad relationship just to avoid being alone. In fact, since he has become happier with himself, the quality of all of his relationships has improved.

Yes, he is still in debt, but he is making progress on that debt. Yes, he is still without the loving relationship that he wants, but he is meeting people who better share his values and interests. And yes, he is still living in a rented apartment, but he can see the light at the end of the tunnel which would enable him to finally make a down payment on his own home.

Without taking the time to do the occasional comparison with ourselves, we can sometimes feel as if nothing is happening for us. If you know that feeling, take a few minutes and look back. Do a perspective check. Evaluate yourself. You may simply have not noticed the progress you have already made.

What do you see when you compare yourself with yourself?

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