Working Title -- Comparison Kills, Don't Waste Your Pie
Theodore Roosevelt once said “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Mark Twain said comparison was the death of joy. Like literal killjoy. But I now say “Comparison is the thief of joy... and logic.” (And the next time I'm tempted to do it, I'll think of pumpkin pie. This will make sense later.)
Here’s the rub.
Comparison only feels great when you’re craving inspiration/motivation, #winning, or simply gloating. Otherwise, comparison feels like a burning, pit of emptiness in your chest. (Social media makes it effortless to experience both versions without leaving your couch. Yay.) Comparison, in the way Roosevelt meant it, rarely results in bountiful gratitude and selfless praise for your fellow man. It usually results in relentless thought, nit-picking, self-resentment, and intermittent life crises to the rhythm of a mental speaker blaring EMERGENCY. YOU'RE FAILING. I REPEAT, YOU'RE FAILING. THIS IS NOT A TEST.
Even wild animals experience social comparison– although with less wallowing-induced Netflix binges, I’m sure. You and I are not immune to social comparison and have experienced a zero-sum mentality that suggests a gain for one side requires a loss from another. We also know that hearing the phrase “Someone has it worse/better than you” is just as helpful as telling an angry person to “relax” in the heat of the moment. (It's not.) These kinds of phrases only exacerbate the problem and presume that our reality isn't valid by itself.
Social Comparison follows the logic that because someone else possesses something that we feel we deserve, our own character flaws, lack of drive, and/or incompetence are ‘undeniable’ proof of the fact that we don't currently possess it. This logic inaccurately assumes that you and the person you are comparing yourself with have shared identical opportunity in capability, time, and space. But notice the human element needed here.
We don’t go around comparing our hips with trees. You may know the definition of ‘Serendipity', but you don’t beat yourself up for not knowing its etymology as well as Wikipedia. Your personal successes aren’t eternally overshadowed by the fact that you weren’t the first man on the moon and your failures aren't lessened by the fact you weren't steering the Titanic the night Rose let Jack die (after she explicitly said...).
Yet it’s so much easier to compare ourselves with those a little more human, a little closer in age, looking a little more like us. Heck, we even compare ourselves to other versions of ourselves -- both real and imagined. In this way we devilishly give ourselves 'no excuse' for falling short. We try to get as close to the capability, time, and space criteria as we can before going to town on ourselves for not measuring up.
Very much like worrying, social comparison may be easy, even instinctual, but it’s completely illogical. Not in the way we measure, but in the fact we measure at all. It's not about settling. Call me crazy, but I think it’s totally possible to set goals for life/love/whatever, achieve them (or not), and not negatively – or positively – compare yourself to anyone else.
Call me crazy, but I think it’s totally possible to want pumpkin pie. wing a recipe, try it out, and move on. It should not be thrown out (or cruelly demolished) because it doesn’t look exactly like the original Pinterest image or lack the same texture you’ve imagined the baker had in theirs. Comparing your pie to another will steal your joy, and undermine your logic. Comparing your pie with someone else’s only feels good when you're seeking to improve, high on life, or actually shoving said pie into someone’s face. Relationships should not be lost over pie.
Call me delusional, but I think it’s totally possible to live a life knowing that there are all types of pies, and just because pumpkin pie is popular now doesn’t mean it’s the only pie out there. Know that some people are born with top-secret award winning recipes (even ghost-chefs) and others wouldn’t eat pumpkin pie if you paid them. Know that some day you’ll only have half a jar of peach marmalade and will have to make do.
And if you've set out to master the almighty pumpkin pie, I encourage you to pursue it. Do it up. Don't settle.
The truth is, I think your pie will simultaneously always be worse, identical to, and way better than a billion other pies at any given time. And of course none of that will ever matter because at the end of the day, the only one to make and eat your pie is you and the people you love enough to let bum a slice.
“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.”
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations