Beguiling Comparisons and Self Image

On an almost daily basis I hear people comparing themselves unfavorably. I hear things like:

  • I wish I had (person)’s discipline.
  • Her hair is beautiful, I wish mine were like that.
  • I thought I was strong until I saw (person’s name) lift…
  • I thought I was well read, but I can’t hold a candle to…
  • Things come so easily to (person), I have to work hard for everything.

This is a natural tendency we all possess by virtue of our humanity that can have confidence-shaking, if not down right debilitating effects on our self image.

Valid comparison

The only valid comparison is the one against our previous personal best. There will always be someone who is more disciplined, prettier (more handsome), physically stronger, better read on certain topics or more broadly read, for whom things come more easily than they do for us.

The good news is that these facts are completely irrelevant. It doesn’t matter how we stack up against others. It has absolutely no impact on our ability to learn, grow and become better in whatever way we choose. Nor can their ability or “advantage” ever take from us the abilities we possess. To take a line from Bill Murray’s movie, Meatballs, another person’s abilities “just doesn’t matter.”

What matters

The only thing that matters is that you’re making the most of the gifts you’ve been given…and we have all been given gifts. All too often we aren’t aware of these gifts…we overlook them, discount them or presume that because we possess them others do as well. That’s not true. You possess skills, abilities and interests that others don’t possess that make you uniquely qualified to contribute to the welfare of others.

As Bob Burg says in his book, Go-Giver, our value is based on the number of people we serve. This insight makes it easier to understand why entertainers and professional athletes make such huge salaries…they’re entertaining thousands, if not millions, of people.


The next time you catch yourself comparing yourself to others, pause…then remind yourself that the only valid comparison is against your previous best. If you’re continually improving, you are a success…and no one can take that from you.

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