Dare (Not) To Compare

Don’t ask yourself what the world needs – ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do it.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

Howard Thurman

She’s the world’s best mom!  Steph Curry is unquestionably the best shooter in NBA history!  You could not find a better piano instructor if you tried!

Ugh, comparison!  Why are we so conditioned to communicate in unrealistic hyperbole?  Maybe it’s our clickbait world.  Perhaps we don’t believe we’ll be heard otherwise.  Has it always been this way?

Comparison can be harmful.  Sure, some of it is pretty innocent.  But there are other times when it serves as the enemy.  An enemy that prevents us from becoming who we are intended to be.

You’ll know the enemy when you see it.  Doubting questions like, “will I ever be as good as her?” or “what will they think if I fail?” take up residence in your mind.

One problem with this narrative is its ignorance of the uniqueness embedded within each person.  Comparison tacitly suggests that certain standards are more important than others.  And that one’s perceived competence is of greater or lesser value than someone else’s.

We weren’t created with a rigid set of abilities.  Our minds are malleable, made for ongoing improvement.  It’s the fundamental difference between what researcher, Carol Dweck, refers to as fixed mindset versus growth mindset.  Her TED talk reveals powerful examples of what she’s learned.

As a basketball coach, I regularly see the effects of developing athletes who limit their potential growth when compared to more advanced players.  Rather than recognize some peers have invested significantly greater time and effort to the sport, they focus on what they are unable to do in the moment.  Yes, others may possess greater natural aptitude, but many commit mental surrender by not learning through failure, correction, and repetition.

Our different gifts and strengths (as well as corresponding weaknesses) can foster such interesting opportunities in life.  Some of the most fascinating people I know are those with whom I share the least in common.  How can your expertise and experience compliment the absence of those skills in others’ lives? And vice versa.

Everyone has value to add.

Realizing who you were meant to be quite often comes via circuitous path.  This includes bumps, bruises, scrapes and a fair share of failures.  And these experiences aren’t all neatly packaged within your twenties.

In a similar writing of her own, Shauna Niequist encourages readers to “be deeply, weirdly, completely, totally you.”  If you’re reading this, my hope is that you’ll confidently embrace who you are without questioning your contribution to the world.

It’s true, society will never be completely rid of comparison’s ignominious social convention; but, your personal experience needn’t be saddled with unrealistic expectations or synthetic burdens.

Dare not to compare.

Follow Tim on Twitter @Tim_G_Holland

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