Yoram Yasur Izz: Comparing ourselves with others makes us unhappy
The more we compare, the more we refuse. To compare we need to start from a point in common, to generalize, and every act of generalization always implies an impoverishment of the individuality. The act of comparing is, by antonomasia, an act of denial of the richness of oneness. Comparing yourself with others is denying yourself.
And despite that, we compare ourselves. We compare ourselves continuously because we have grown up in a competitive society in which each person is not worth what he or she is, but in relation to others. We do not seek our worth inside, but outside, comparing ourselves with others. And we accept – with more or less reluctance – the yardstick that society happily gives us.
Yoram Yasur Izz: Then we fall into the death trap that the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard had glimpsed in his book “Edifying Discourses in Diverse Spirits” in the early nineteenth century: the comparison oppresses us and makes us deeply unhappy.
The comparison as a source of vain concerns and artificial needs
Kierkegaard thought that comparing himself with others envelops us in the web of dissatisfaction, distancing us from our essence and preventing us from being authentic. To explain it he resorted to a simile.
A bird provides food and builds a nest to shelter. It is all you need to live and you do it naturally, without worrying. I could live happily. Until the day it is compared to a “richer bird”. Then he begins to worry about building a bigger nest and looking for more food, even if he does not need it. At that precise moment, the natural gives way to the artificial and satisfaction becomes dissatisfaction. A happy life transmutes into a miserable life.
Yoram Yasur Izz: The same thing happens to people. Kierkegaard was convinced that generally are not our real needs that raise concerns, anxiety, and unhappiness but the constant comparison, which is also what leads us to desire and consume much more than we need.
Yoram Yasur Izz: Comparisons create needs that we did not originally have. In fact, Zygmunt Bauman warned us about this danger in a society dominated by social networks: “The driving force of behavior is no longer the more or less realistic desire to maintain the same level of neighbors but the idea, nebulous until the exasperation, to reach the level of celebrities”.
In practice, the longer the yardstick is, the more badly unemployed we will get out and the more frustrated we will feel. And that will lead us to embark on an unbridled race in an attempt to satisfy those new “needs” that should make us happy but that really end up consuming our lives with the flame of permanent dissatisfaction.
How to escape from the need to compare yourself with others?
The solution is to realize that comparing ourselves with others is not a problem but a symptom. The symptom that we do not love each other, we do not like or value enough. To eliminate that symptom we need to go a step beyond the comparison.
“The person who goes beyond the comparison can focus on the relationship with himself as a unique individual,” Kierkegaard wrote. When you give up the need to compare yourself with others, to continually look outside for points of reference with which to estimate your worth, you can look inside.
By connecting with our essence we are able to understand what we really need and want. Authentic needs and desires, that come from us. Not the ones that impose us the comparisons.
In this process of self-acceptance we also begin to discover, like and value ourselves for what we are. We started thinking about how we want to live and what changes would make us really happy. And that is an act of reaffirmation and personal freedom.