Hong Kong Graffito: I am not human being

How to Compare Yourself For Motivation, Not Madness

As a social species, we continually compare ourselves to those around us.

It’s natural.

Unfortunately, as a species with social media (and traditional media with society pages), we don’t actually compare ourselves to peers anymore, we compare ourselves to personas.

That way, the comparison is a way to madness, not to creating a better you…

Fictional Models

The people we are increasingly confronted with are not the full actual people.

There may still be people behind the things we see (if they don’t just come from chatbots and social media automation or fakery).

We forget that to our own detriment when railing against “them” and getting mad at comments and updates online.

Most of the time, however, we do not see these actual people.

Rather, we see the public personas of the people we are somehow connected with, via TV and especially on social media.

We see their dressed-up shells and Instagram-proper self(ie)s, and we hear the stories they tell to the public and the status updates they decided to show their social media “friends.”

Remember that video…?

The “people” we see even more of are the model images in ads and the stars who play fictional masters of their fates.

Even when it isn’t the outright fiction of a TV series’ or movie’s characters we see, it is the fiction of politicians designed to appeal to their audiences, the fiction of business superstars carefully curated to look successful and seem worth their money, all of their own power.

Luck surely had nothing to do with it; the world bent to their wills.

Kurt Vonnegut on Moderate GiftednessIf you fail, it’s just because you’re too weak.

In the process, no one seems good enough anymore.

Even if you are firmly among the 1% of developed nations’ earners, you are still nothing compared to the 0.1% above you.

Don’t even start to compare yourself if you’re poor or average.

Average like… middle class.

We all are, predominantly, average in most aspects of our lives, though.
That’s what makes an average, after all.

Now, you could go and make yourself feel a bit better easily enough.

Looking Down

As long as you have a roof over your head, an ability to read something published online, you’re doing better than *so* many other people in this world.

So, shut up, quit complaining, you are still not out on the street, living in a war-torn country, unable to find anything to put on the plate tomorrow – or so this popular sentiment goes.

Yes, it will make you feel better to look down on others.

It may be good to sometimes remember what you have in order to appreciate it.

However, it would be only a small step to celebrating schadenfreude and following The Devil’s Dictionary’s definition of happiness…

"Happiness." The Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Pierce.

It won’t help you get any better, though.

And if you’re reading pages dedicated to “how to really live in this world,” it is my sincere hope that you don’t just want to be as you are and be done with it…

… especially when there tend to be serious issues with that…

The Problem With Being Yourself

Rather, reading this as you are, I’d hope that you want to both accept your limits and see where they truly lie.

For that, there are only two comparisons that will possibly do you any good, the normal better and yesterday’s you.

The Normal Better

Hidden behind, and sometimes within, the superstars we pay so much attention to, the billionaires and titans, the athletes and geniuses, there are also normal people.

Oh, sure, have a look at Tools of Titans, too. See what you can learn.

But also recognize that people for whom $120k is something to play with are probably not your league of normal people anymore, no matter how much they may argue that everyone could do what they did and they’re just average.

They may have started out quite average, though, and there are enough other people who may not be getting superstar attention…

… but still, they manage their homes, often enough with kids, hold on to a job, and find time to head for the fitness center. And yeah, often enough, those are women.

Bad on women who are being made to feel like they aren’t up to *that* standard; maybe even more of a challenge to the men who want to be (like) kings again and only end up proving their weaknesses by it.

Either way, and even with an awareness of how much of that may be curated again in those cases where we see it, I think it’s an interesting normal to compare ourselves to: The mothers and fathers who are just average, who struggle to combine work and family, to manage a household and a work life, busyness and relaxation.

The Growing Good of the World... George Eliot, Middlemarch

Somehow, we may well, in all our failings we are only too aware of (after all, we know our own failings pretty well) actually *be* such cases of the normal better…

Yesterday You

And here, we finally get to the only comparison that is really healthy, realistic, and sensible: the comparison with ourselves.

You will age anyways, and so you cannot forever expect to get faster and stronger.

For most of the time of your life, however, you can get fitter, stronger, let alone more knowledgeable and skillful and perhaps even wise, as you age.

And here, you need to avoid only one thing: to compare yourself with your imaginary ideal you.

What counts for progress is not ideal you of some imaginary future (which we always end up wanting to see tomorrow, at the latest).

What counts for progress is literally Yesterday You.

Are you doing something today that, in comparison to yesterday, is just as good or gets you a little step towards better?

Here, sure, another day of having cooked a meal and/or not having left the kitchen a complete mess after eating won’t seem like much.
A small language lesson on Duolingo might not seem like you’ll ever learn the language.
A small sum saved doesn’t yet seem to make any difference.

Not falling off, nor falling short of an ideal, but continuing step by step, ultimately is the only thing that will lead anywhere, though.

If you want to see progress and growth in your life, you’ll need to go forward and grow. Maybe in some respects in seasons, not every day and in every aspect of your life.

But progress a little step every day, in some area of your life, get just a little bit better than yesterday, and you’ll get somewhere.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.