Comparisons Can Discourage—or Inspire animals by James Vaughan (CC BY-NC-SA)

…party animals by James Vaughan (CC BY-NC-SA)

Whenever I’m with other people, part of me shrinks a little. —Alan Bradley
I’m losing myself trying to compete /
With everyone else instead of just being me —Demi Lovato
Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. —Eleanor Roosevelt
Don’t be Intimidated. —Benjamin Hoff, The Te of Piglet



Comparisons are how we learn about ourselves and the world—who we are, what we like, and where we want to go. It’s natural to compare yourself with others, but sometimes you’ll find yourself wanting. Instead of slumping in defeat, learn from your envy. Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you feel yourself shrinking in someone else’s shadow:


Success Isn’t a Zero-Sum Game

Life isn’t a competition for a single prize with one winner and seven billion losers. Others’ successes don’t mean you’ve failed. There’s enough room for everyone to fulfill their potential. How will you shine?


Appearances Can Be Deceiving

Greatness isn’t easy and superhuman feats usually aren’t. If you’re feeling disheartened, look closer. Like airbrushed models and sleight-of-hand tricks, some displays aren’t as impressive as they first appear. Others only look easy—usually after years of hard work and sacrifice. Either way, there’s more to the story.


Apples and Oranges

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. So you’re not a Wall Street tycoon or musical prodigy. Maybe you’re eloquent, funny, or stylish—or a math whiz, or terrific with kids. What talents or skills do you take for granted? Chances are, others admire them in you. (And those daunting superstars? They have insecurities, losses, and bad hair days, too.)


Take a Page from Their Playbook

We admire skills, performances, and creations that speak to our hopes, desires, and fledgling identities. So instead of shrinking from success, let these great acts motivate your own. Try some part of them on for size—say, a new perspective or technique. Keep what you like; change what you don’t.


We need comparisons to function and thrive, and it’s natural to compare yourself with others. But let their successes inspire you, not shake your confidence. Reframe your envy. Appreciate your strengths. And use what impresses you to explore your goals, try new approaches, and achieve your own greatness.




  1. After reading this, i compared it to another article i read today from Time Magazine entitled “Questions to Answer in the Age of Optimized Hiring.”

    Not that this is a new phenomenon, but more frequently today, companies are turning to personality profiling to determine whether a potential employee will be a good fit for the organization. The article points out the quandary of how people are completing questionnaires: What does it mean if one answers one way versus another – will i feel entitled or neurotic with answer 1, versus more likely to land a job with answer 2? Another person quoted in the article points out that while some questions’ answers might lead an employer to skew their candidate preferences towards a younger employee, a different employer might temper results of a questionnaire with the anecdotal results they have had by hiring seasoned employees that bring different and equally valuable skills to the proposition.

    Juxtaposing these two articles leads me to this. No matter how we feel we must answer interviewer questions or a personality test, we must also think about the consequences of those answers. Sometimes we may feel we must stay true to ourselves in our answers, job be damned. Sometimes we may decide to choose answers that make us uncomfortable in order to get the job and accidentally discover our horizons have been expanded, all to the good.

  2. Benjamin Abraham

    The smooth flow of complex and meaningful ideas you compel words on these pages to display are an inspiration. This is surely one of those opportunities for beneficial comparison.

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