Comparison: Not Being Good Enough

Feb 03, 2012

By Terryann Nikides

We all have a tendency to compare ourselves to others. We think that by using people we admire in some way as a standard, we will improve who we are, make ourselves better people. We think we can be better by morphing ourselves into something we can see in the mirror, someone stronger, better looking, smarter, more interesting, more focused, someone who has more money and a better job.

And we believe that doing this will make us happier.  Instead, all this does is re-affirm our feelings that we are not good enough. This happens because when we compare ourselves to something else, what we are really doing is pursuing an unattainable ideal. And because we can never reach that ideal we become more and more unhappy: disappointed in ourselves, dissatisfied with life.

This is a shame. In childhood, as each of us blossoms and grows, we begin the process of learning to know ourselves. This continues as we mature and change over the course of our lives, and ideally we gradually arrive at a deeper knowledge of our own self.

But somewhere along the line, many of us lose confidence in our inner selves and begin to look outside ourselves, at others, for guidance on what we should be. We start to compare what we see with what we perceive as lacking in ourselves.


But the very act of comparing obscures the way to a deeper knowing of self, of what we are. Instead we plummet down the path of comparison to find out what we should be. But in that process of comparison, we destroy the very essence of who we are because we define our selves not by who we are, but by who we are not.


Engaging in comparison is incredibly toxic. Comparison is supposed to lead us to fulfill something that we lack, instead, ensuring that we remain lacking. We sabotage ourselves into not ever being satisfied with ourselves by imposing a litany of negativism on us of consisting of "I am not pretty enough," "I am not smart enough," or "I am not successful enough."

By idealizing other's traits as superior to our own, we say, "I am not good enough but you are." We think, "If I just could have that house, that car, that piece of cake, that man/woman, that realization, that dress, that job then I will be happy." But this is futile; the only thing that results is that once we have that house, car, etc, we just want something else. Something more. We are not satisfied, and for good reason. These external changes bring only momentary happiness at best.

We set ourselves up for failure. It's as simple as that. And when we change ourselves to be like others and yet still feel unsatisfied we feel as though we were lied to. We feel betrayed. Then we blame the other for not living up to our vision--instead of questioning why we compare. Better yet, the payoff of comparison.


Comparison fragments us. We shove parts of ourselves that we do not like into the background and pretend they are gone. We put the parts we like in the foreground and obsessively keep them alive.  But the personalities that we put in the background are still there and sit in wait for our attention. We compare and degrade them over and over, hurting them, telling them they are not good enough. Then something out of the ordinary happens--something like LIFE--and out pops a fragment of Self we do not like.

When I was young I used to starve myself to be thin. I was rejecting the fat girl within me. She was in the background, starved for affection, hurting, abused by being called every name in the book. Each time I saw food; I said eating was bad. Every time I ate, (which I did only because I could not stand up without fainting) I chastised the fat girl within me for being weak and a pig.  Then one day I could not keep fat girl in her cage. She just refused to stay in anymore. She jumped out and ate everything in sight and did not stop till I had gained 100 pounds.


When we engage in comparison, we merely compare fragments of our self to fragments of others.  We forget there is a whole person.  When I was starving I felt completely out of control of my life. Those who looked at my thin body said that I had incredible willpower and control.  How wrong they were! We compare ourselves to a snapshot of a slice of life and think that is all there is. Not only do we disregard the whole picture by focusing on a narrow perspective; but also we do not pay attention to where we are at this particular moment in time. We ignore ourselves as a whole by frantically pursuing fragments of ideals. It is impossible to be satisfied because there is always another fragment


No wonder we become addicted to things like shopping, spending, eating, dieting, sex, work, prescription drugs, even ideas and beliefs. Comparison not only sustains addiction, it becomes an addiction itself.  Addiction takes many forms. There are some of us who are addicted to plastic surgery or dieting.  If only I had a better nose, less wrinkles, bigger lips, were thinner, more muscular, a size 0, then I will be happy, be loved, and love myself. Comparison is relative. Thinner and bigger, when is thinner or bigger ever thin or big enough?


Comparison will never give us what we want.  Comparison is a moving target.  At some point, each person we compare ourselves to is revealed as flawed, not as perfect as we thought. We turn to chasing another ideal, but it, too, will remain elusive. The years pass as we pursue ideals that keep changing, as we are disappointed time and time again.


Life is change, and we tend desperately to resist it despite aging, learning, adapting, and accumulating experiences.  We think that by comparing ourselves to some external limited view we will find what we are looking for and get some relief from the human experience.

Comparison becomes the negative filter that colours our experience. The experiences that should benefit us are lost behind the cloud of negative perceptions. As we grow older, the comparison reflex gets worse and we turn on ourselves. We often say things like: "This isn't how I usually act. I am not like this."  Or my favourite:  "This isn't really me!" I always want to ask, "If this isn't really you, then who are you really; and where did the real you go?"


We all are unique, but comparison squashes our uniqueness.  Each of us is an accumulation of experiences and perceptions. This is what makes each of us an individual. Self-discovery and investigating self is the stuff of adventure! Comparing only tarnishes the very uniqueness of who we are.

BreakThrough is a way to investigate self and bring to light the futility of comparing as proof of our inadequacies. We have a powerful tool at our disposal to break through comparing ourselves to others, self-sabotage, and not being good enough. BreakThrough brings freedom from what we know and allows us to gently land in the unknown. 

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