Despair, Conform, Destroy: On the Deeply Devastating Consequences of Comparison

Laura V. in Pemuteran, Bali

Read Time – 5 min

Part I: Despair

Years ago, I dated a very wealthy man. Based in Singapore, he was the creative head of a renowned global design firm— energetic, moody, tall. He took his time answering his texts. Distracted with international flights and tremendous responsibility, he barely had time for me. Still, I was smitten. Patient. I was also discovering a new life and identity in Bali, so I didn’t quite mind his absence.

Upon our first meeting, his face went from steel-serious to joyfully breaking within nanoseconds. He had grown up working class and single-parented in Texas; our childhoods held similar narratives. Older than me by three years, his lifestyle was elegant, worldly, sweeping. And the more time I spent with him, the greater my own self-loathing became. It wasn’t while we were together at spas, at top-flight hotels, at restaurants—it was after we parted ways: him to his clean, manicured city, and me, to my humble expat apartment—that I felt as though something was completely and totally missing.

I’d lay on my bed and feel the most intense pinpricks of Not Enough. A chorus of cruel angels would weigh on my shoulders, sneering “What are you doing with your life?” and “Had you gone a route more stable, you’d own property in three countries, too.” This comparison let itself into my subconscious and crept up on me before I could even identify its presence. It assailed me; I couldn’t breathe. When I fought back and saw its face, it took me hours to calm down—I had to stare at my own image in the mirror for a while to remember who and why I was.

When I was young, my hard-working mother would justify us not having things by comparing us to others. She’d say: “We’re not like them. We’re not a nuclear family.” When my friends would come over, she’d grill them about their families’ lifestyles, resentment flashing in her eyes. She loved me like the unfathomably wide skies above prairies; yet she openly lamented that I could have been adopted by people who “had it better.”

In college, my brilliant lover was a talented actress. Every year I stood at the entranceway of the third top drama department in the nation and watched other people line up for auditions to the conservatory. My longing to act was a palpable burning—a fire burning up my organs— but I was too scared to try. I thought the childhood accident that prevented me from walking or standing for too long exempted me from such a physically-focused career path.

I loved my girlfriend and I hated her success. I endlessly compared myself to her. Can you imagine this? To love someone, to fuck them, and to have the same traits you adore about them be the measuring stick with which your own self-worth is whipped. The suffering and shame this caused me was sheer brutality.

Comparison causes despair; it steals away our ability to discern our fundamental inner peace..

Comparison gives us excuses to stay in self-hatred. It robs us of our joy. It keeps us from seeing ourselves clearly.

And in that fuzzed, drugged state, we become unable to get back to the truth of ourselves.

Part II: Conformity

Comparison is the white picket fence that strangles your dreams.
When we compare ourselves, we succumb to a culture of conformity: the need to abide by whatever standards our current society, or other people, dictate. We stand on the precipice of self-discovery, and we could dive down in a glorious canyon, our own bright and savage lives. Instead, we sit there comparing the size and color of our fellow jumpers’ parachutes.

Comparison is driven by flawed, bias perception and toxic, unfounded beliefs that we’ve internalized and repeated back to ourselves. It’s the opposite of rebellion and free-thought.
It’s subjugation.

You do not have to act as a subordinate: not to your own insecurities or the ideas perpetuated by the unhealed wounds of the masses.

Do not allow conformity to convince you otherwise.

Comparison dehumanizes both us and the one we compare ourselves to because it requires us to objectify them for our own purposes of self-defeated thinking.

Think about that. Comparison does harm to you and the subject to which you compare yourself. How can you fully see another human being if all you can see is the relationship of them to your perceived failures or lack? This beast momentarily turns you into a self-centered black hole at the apex of your own tragic universe. It, quite literally, sucks.

Conformity thrives on comparison because it requires us to be deaf and one-dimensional and narrow-minded and dehumanizing. To forget true intimacy. To use others as weaponry for distraction from our real feelings of inadequacy. This is madness. This is violence.

Advertising, religion, politics, and consumerism thrive on conformity to separate us from one another. If everyone felt whole, complete and secure then the populace would be rendered unsellable, resistant to trickery. We wouldn’t be disposable anymore; we’d stop treating each other and the planet the same way institutions treated us. We’d be greater than the sum of our egoic parts being manipulated. We would love one another too much to dehumanize each other for the purpose of our excuses—the ones that keep us from leading our gifted, wild, mysterious lives. 

We’d stop seeing our internal choices as separate from the world we live in.

Part III: Destruction

In our comparison, we destroy the potential time in which we could be creating and cultivating ourselves into the humans we want to be.

The normal identification of something we’d like to have or enjoy in another becomes a monster that trashes the house of our possibilities.

Comparison is like taking your adored cocker spaniel and beating it because it’s not a labrador. It damages the soul. It temporarily removes love from the heart.

It makes us feel separate, not enough, futile, small, incompetent, unsexy, disempowered, cheap—when in reality we are each priceless, lovable, great celestial beings of imperfection.

Comparison destroys potentially peaceful moments, of which many of us have too few. It steals away our sanity. We needn’t destroy ourselves this way. We needn’t use comparison as self-sabotage or procrastination from taking action to pursue what will bring us rivers of joy.

Comparison destroys us. Do not forget this. It suffocates the creative spirit and murders our happiness and disrupts our inherent peacefulness. The road in front of dreamers is long and comparison is a side-alley of hawkers selling lies. It’s a thief in the mansion of your dreams.

Comparison is destruction, but not permanent destruction: If it comes and burns down your soul’s forest for a while, there is a remedy.

Plant something new.

More on that soon.