I’ve written before in this blog about the destructive foolishness of comparing ourselves to other people and then regretting we are not more like them. We do it regarding our looks, our body and our abilities. We do it as lawyers, trying to be exactly like some other lawyer we admire and envy. Plastic surgeons spend a good part of their professional life satisfying someone wanting to be like someone else. Teens model themselves after celebrities and peer group members they admire. Marketing is based upon people wanting to wear the same things as the models they put in their ads. People we admire are featured in advertising to motivate us to want to be just like them. Our world is largely one of imitation of others.
But, it is a fool’s errand and a waste of time. It’s a fool’s errand because each one of us is special and the imitation is, at best, an imitation. It’s a waste of time because when we are not who we really are, we are only an imitation of something – not real or genuine. Shakespeare writes in Hamlet “To thine own self be true and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
Even the Bible tells us how foolish it is compare ourselves to others. Paul says in Galatians:
“Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.”
What’s wrong with trying to be someone else? To start with there is no reasonable way for us to make any kind of accurate comparison. Since we are so unique it simply isn’t possible to compare ourselves to someone else. More importantly, we are each very distinctive in so many ways because God did not make any two people the same. Like fingerprints and DNA we are made as one of a kind. You simply can’t realistically make comparisons that are fair or accurate. And that’s true of what you consider your successes as well as what you think are your imperfections.
There is only one rational way to compare ourselves and that is to compare ourselves of the present moment to ourselves of the past. Have we grown, improved and become better than we were? That’s the real question and the accurate comparison we should be making at the end of each day. Not comparing us to someone else.
If you do make a comparison and artificially adopt some aspect of another it will be apparent to others. What is worse than the person who is pretending to be someone else? They look foolish and they are foolish. We spot the actors and the phonies immediately. We also recognize the genuine person and we trust them as authentic. Our goal should be to become more open, transparent and genuine in everything we do while striving to improve what needs improvement. We should be truthful and honest, not only because it is morally right, but because it means being a genuine person.
Does that mean we should settle for our many flaws and failures? Not at all. There is a need to set goals for change and improvement. There is also a rational way to evaluate ourselves and others. Some of the principles of Neuro Linguistic Programing (NLP) suggest ideas for examining this and suggest:
- We all have the necessary resources to achieve our goals. We have got what it takes or the means to create these resources within ourselves. We have to learn how to unlock the resources we have.
- In general, if someone else can do something than so can you. To achieve it means you learn from them and by applying the same principles achieve it.
- We each have our own way of interpreting a particular event or occurrence. We build a “map” on our mind based upon our perceptions but the map is not the actual reality. It is just our viewpoint.
When we take the time to realistically examine ourselves, who we are and what we are like we are beginning to open a path to improvement. When we evaluate other people’s good characteristics we can examine how we might achieve our own unique characteristics. It is a process of starting with ourselves as a worthy, distinctive person and improving upon ourselves rather than pretending to be someone else.