WellBeing

Compare and despair

The beloved 26th president of the United States, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, prophetically pronounced: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” He uttered these words more than a hundred years ago, and yet this sentiment applies more than ever to life in the 21st century. This age-old problem has been our torment since we could walk upright. However, the advent of globalisation and connectivity through social media platforms, as well as the absence or obsolescence of God in our lives, has intensified the obsession with “me”. The cost of constant comparing is despair as we lose sight of ourselves.

Good, better, best

From the moment you’re born, you’re in the race of your life. While parents think their baby is the most beautiful and clearly the brightest cherub ever, inadvertently they are setting their child up for a life based on comparison. Just as their own parents did with them. It’s in their genes and rightly or wrongly we have an innate drive to view or assess ourselves through the perceived lens of others.

In 1954, American social psychologist Leon Festinger developed the Social Comparison Theory. Essentially, this is an internal ratings system where we continually benchmark ourselves against others. We evaluate our own social and personal worth based on how we compare with peers and those we admire. We use our own criteria for the traits we’re assessing but this determination is usually based on socially acceptable norms. For instance, rating your own level of attractiveness is based on what

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