In a conversation with a senior actuary, he shared that he was motivated by status. What he wanted next was a bigger house and bigger car and a better holiday. He already had a great house, car and set of holiday plans but he wanted more. His version of a successful life was heavily influenced in how he was brought up and how others were doing in his circle. And even with the success he had achieved, he was desperately unhappy. It may have met other’s definition of success but it wasn’t a life of meaning for him.
For several decades, our lives have been focused on doing better than those before us. Many of us stand on the shoulders of our parents and grandparents who made huge sacrifices to give us the opportunity of a better life. To not embrace all the privileges many of us have been given would be to dishonor their efforts.
So we do better in each generation. It appears that we’ve arrived at a place where that seems to be the only North Star that guides us. We measure ourselves by comparing our success to others.
The opportunities for comparison are ubiquitous. Watching the movie The September issue was a brutal reminder of how the fashion magazines are the puppet masters of our lives. They offer up an ideal of how to look, love and live. It’s hard not to feel second best when comparing ourselves to that.
But this isn’t a diatribe against the fashion industry. Dinner tables, the school gate and social media are all full of stories of other’s aspirations. Others can seem happier, thinner, fitter and overall more successful if we take their stories at face value.
Comparisons don’t serve us.
Author Iyanla Vanzant summarises:
“Comparison is an act of violence against the self. Comparisons are always subjective, often biased and rarely helpful. Acutely aware of how hard we’re working to keep our head above water and fulfill expectations, we often mistakenly assume others are getting by more effortlessly. The reality is that many people are stretched and struggling just like you. Perhaps not in the same way, but in their own way, with their own unique set of challenges, insecurities and internal struggles.”
Let’s be more compassionate with ourselves and cease comparisons. They’re an act of violence against oneself.