Written by 10:25 am Growth Mindset

Unveiling the Mask of Comparisons

Comparisons mean considering something similar, or equal to something else or examining the differences between people and things. Literally, comparisons do not refer to anything “negative” or “toxic”; however, in practice, people somehow untactfully apply the word – COMPARE or COMPARISON and then they lead themselves to deep despair and misery!

Truth #1: People Always Like Comparing Things Together

I was born and grew up in an Asian culture. When I was a child, I heard quite many stories about comparing “this” and “that”. And those stories seemed to never come to an end. People around me had a habit of comparing things and comparing people, and I did as well. Even I sometimes compared myself and others. At first, I didn’t recognize that “Comparison” is a two-blade knife. It can sharpen your willpower and destroy your inner strength at the same time.

In my city or country, it’s not too rare for me to catch people or neighbors having a chitchat about somebody or something. When I first heard the stories like that, I thought they were just for fun or innocuous. However, some of those comparisons might lead to devastating or tragic consequences for the insiders. Wherever you come from, I bet that at least you might be the focal point of one of the comparisons like that once in your life. Your mother might instantly compare you with your neighbor’s child, your brother, your sister, or someone else on the earth. Your teacher might compare your learning result with a friend’s in class or an anonymous’ outside of your class. Your line manager might compare you with your peers and another one who already quit his or her job centuries ago. For what it’s worth, you always compare yourself to others, especially the ones on social media.

In recent years, Social media has been playing an indispensable part in human modern life. You might eat with it, breathe with it, and even go to sleep with it. It becomes part of you. However, you do not recognize that Social media is extremely fertile ground for comparison. In that world, you easily find someone who is having a more fabulous time than you are, someone who is living the life you have been dreaming of, or someone who achieved what you are longing for. The haunting comparisons are gradually formed in your mind and you cannot get rid of them. As a result, you look down on yourself, you incredibly torture yourself with unfair accusations, and then you might destroy what you have attempted to do for years. Even in the worst case, you throw your endeavors out of the window and cut off yourself from the community. You put an end to your life due to something virtual, and even unjustifiable.

In fact, humans are not the only species whose emotions are guided by comparison. Also, humans all suffer from negativity bias, which makes negative experiences particularly emotionally significant. The tragic consequence to you and me can be that we’re programmed to beat ourselves when we fail to measure up to our expectations.

Comparison is like that and we allow it to destroy our lives without any conditions!

Truth #2: The Intimacy between “Comparison” and “Envy”

There is a saying that comparison-induced envy can be a great motivator and guide. It can also make us bitter. According to psychologists, there exist two distinguishing terms that best describe the envy that people are nourishing in themselves: “benign envy” and “malicious envy”.  These two terms will lead us to two completely opposite emotions and actions. “Benign envy” brings you a positive emotion like “admiration” and makes you emulate the success of somebody, whereas “malicious envy” turns you into a “super mean” person who dislikes and begrudges others for having what you want.

In fact, you might find many pieces of advice from people surrounding you. They usually suggest you shift your thinking from malicious to benign envy by using the commonly heard sayings below:

  1. I haven’t done what they’ve done…yet.

  2. Every person is on their own journey. I’m grateful for mine.

  3. I’m inspired by him or her. Maybe I can learn from them, or ask them to be my mentor.

As far as I’m concerned, they probably work if you are carrying out mild emotions. On the contrary, I don’t think that these sentences can help you. When your emotions are incredibly intense, you are supposed to deeply understand them before taking any proper actions. Why?

As I mentioned before, humans are prone to be guided by emotions. And when emotions overpower logical thinking, do not expect that you can logically control the situations just with a few sentences like those.

When you find yourself sinking in a stew, the only solution is to keep calm and then look into your emotional processing. One is to truly understand one more hidden corner of your soul, and the other is to help you out of the harsh situation in life. Moreover,  there is the fact that every one of us is coating the same occurrences and incidents with different emotions due to different backgrounds, different education, and different points of view. From that, things can be “easy” for someone but “extremely hard” for others. If you recognize the root of your envy, you might deal with it efficiently. In contrast, envy will “occupy” your body and soul.

Let me share with you the real stories of mine.

Story 1: The Eagerness to Deal with Numbers

I used to be a person who hated working with numbers. When it came to numbers and figures, I immediately had a splitting headache and even felt a thousand butterflies in my stomach. I didn’t know where to start or what to do with the numbers and figures, they seemed nothing to me at that time. Every time I stepped into weekly briefings with my line manager and the sales team leader, I looked like a “stupid” guy who couldn’t understand and speak the same language they were using throughout the briefings revolving around sales numbers. Now, when I looked back at that situation, let’s say that I was having the emotion of Grief. It is in the center of Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions. Thanks to this intense emotion, it led me to actions of learning and exploring the insights of numbers and figures. I came to my friends and old colleagues who had been working in sales for years to learn how to read numbers and be friends with numbers. What I was doing at that time was being able to act, think and give comments like my line manager. She was a great source of inspiration, she demonstrated how smart she was with sales numbers and figures, then she came up with 80-90% accurate suggestions, recommendations, and advice. As you can see,  the benign envy did shine the light on the right way to my expected goals.

Story 2: Being stabbed in my Back by my subordinates

I still remember that in 2018, I  accepted an offer to come back to the company I used to work for when I graduated from university. I came back and took the position of Head of Academics. In that position, I had to lead a teaching and training team to consolidate and improve teaching quality and team spirit at the same time. Also, I was supposed to cooperate with Sales as well as Marketing to boost sales for the company.

In the beginning, everything seemed going quite well and I could foresee what I was supposed to do for my team and the other teams. At the same time, as I promised my line manager, I would train the most potential subordinates to be my successors. As I mentioned before, I was taking charge of Training and Teaching jobs at the same time; therefore, I needed 2 successors: one for Training Management and the other for Academic Management. During my training time, I recognized that my two “potential” successors were incredibly ambitious and that what they wanted was more than what I could offer. Actually, I gave them a few litmus tests to see what could be the future scenarios for both of me and them. One day, I found that there were so many stories behind my back and I immediately experienced their attacks then. One more time their behaviors clearly demonstrated their cunning schemes. They wanted to take over my position like I used to share my great concern with a fellow worker of mine thrice. Anyway, the climax of the story was that one of them acknowledged that she tried to kick me out by any means and the result was her real pride.

The “booty” in that situation showed us that the malicious envy did totally control what my two “successors” thought and acted. They might get what they wanted but they didn’t know that their malicious envy was recognized in the beginning and also the malicious envy just kept them there forever because they already humiliated themselves in front of the other staff and behind my back.

Malicious envy is like evil, it steals your sincerity and takes away almost all potential opportunities to go further in your career. The boundary between Having Things and Losing Things is quite delicate and fragile. Never make any mistakes if you do not want to throw your self-esteem out of the window just with your malicious envy.

Generally, if you are not in control of interpreting what you encounter in life, you might easily take the path to “malicious envy” which makes you “nasty”, instead of motivating you to work harder to improve yourself and your conditions.

Being wise, Deeply understanding your emotions, and Ethically behaving will help you defeat the by-product of Comparisons.

(Reference: Big Feelings – How to Be Okay When Things Are Not Okay, Liz Fosslien & Mollie West Duffy)


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