My mom gets more than her share of catalogs and magazines. One day while visiting her I decided to peruse her impressive pile of publications. As I skimmed through the articles in a few of the women’s magazines, I noticed every time a women’s name was mentioned, so too, was her age, as if that bit of information alone defined her.
I picked up some other magazines as well to see if this was a universal trend or one specifically aimed at women. Much to my dismay most of the other magazines were also in on this “comparison conspiracy”.
If it wasn’t age, it was income. If it wasn’t income, it was sex appeal. If it wasn’t sex appeal, it was technological wizardry. If it wasn’t technological wizardry, well, you get the picture.
Sure it’s interesting to know what other people are up to – especially successful or charismatic people. While celebrities or Olympians or the new Olympic celebrities may inspire us or cause us to envy their achievements or advantages, their triumphs or failures don’t necessarily reflect our own.
It’s often those closer to us that us are the real comparison conspirators. The co-worker who got our promotion, the friend who lost the 30 pounds we set out to, or the client who just published her book trigger bouts of insecurity because surely we should be able to obtain the same results.
It’s easy to underestimate the effort that went into their success. We can never know the mix of muscle and magic that led to their results.
Our job is to stay focused on what we can achieve, how we can achieve it, who might help us achieve it, and why we want to achieve it in the first place.
There will always be those who are wealthier, smarter, more attractive, have a quicker wit and a more sophisticated sense of style. There will always be those who are older or younger, more or less driven, more or less qualified, and more or less creative.
The key is not to compare our evolution and growth with that of someone else. If this really is “our circus, our monkeys“, whether someone else can make them fly matters only if that’s what we want our monkeys to do. If so, we can always sign up for the flying monkey seminar offered by some wizard of odd and save ourselves the grief of figuring it out on our own.
Otherwise, dare not to compare. Dare to share instead.