One of my major downfalls as a person is that I am constantly comparing myself to others.
Have you ever noticed that you never compare yourself to the people you are clearly doing better than, just the ones you perceive as being better than you? Like, I always feel fat, and I compare myself to all of my skinny or average friends and family. Why don’t I ever look at average America and feel better? Maybe I need to start watching “My 600 Pound Life” with my wife.
I think comparisons can be a good thing. When I was a kid, I always compared myself to the kids smarter than me, or better musicians than me (those were the big two areas for me) and it always drove me to do more, learn more, study more, practice more. It was very enabling for me. It was my drive in a lot of ways.
But with those things, at least back then, I never took it to an unhealthy level. That was probably because I wasn’t very competitive. I didn’t strive to be the smartest kid or the best musician. But I did put myself in all the hardest classes and into a band where I was clearly the least talented. I enjoyed the drive put in me just to hang with these people, but I wasn’t driven to beat them. If that makes sense.
It wasn’t until I was in my 20’s that those comparisons started to really weigh on me. I got beat down in college very often. Most of my mid-semester critiques were brutal (while my finals generally went pretty well), I once had a professor ask me why I was in design school and if I even had any desire to become an architect. College challenged me a lot because it was the first time I ever realized I wanted to be an artistic person, but I also realized I didn’t really have any innate abilities to create art. I was constantly comparing myself to the more gifted students I was in class with.
In high school, all you have to compare is academics, which I was very good at, sports, which I wasn’t, and whatever ‘other’ you can provide, for me, rock music. It was easy to feel good about yourself when you tagged up with a bunch of guys that made you look good.
But college wasn’t like that. Everyone there was good at school, that’s how they got in. Now there was a new element, art, that was never part of the equation, and I was miserable at it. And that was it. Nothing else to make you feel like you were doing well. Being the class clown went from ‘thanks for making this class bearable’ to ‘thanks for wasting precious time with the professor’. Having good taste in music or movies could help you make friends but it didn’t carry over into the classroom. Everything was focused on school a good majority of the time.
So college is where the comparisons started to eat at me a little bit. I would wonder if I could do that job, if there was room for a person like me in the world. Still concerns I have today. But later in my 20’s is when things fell off a cliff for me.
Getting laid off instantly makes you compare yourself to your co-workers. How was I worse than him? How could they possibly want to keep her? And it makes you feel terrible because now you are all of a sudden one of those people, living off the system, that so many people deride in the media. Am I really like him? Don’t compare me to her!
My weight really, for the first time, kinda took off on me in my mid-20’s. I shot from 200 pounds to 230 to 250 in just a handful of years. This was the same time I was dating my wife and her perfectly fit family that I constantly compare(d) myself to. The result, of course, was always a wretched image of my body.
Getting married and having a child didn’t help me any. I began to compare myself to other husbands and fathers I either knew in real life or saw in TV and movies. I knew that I could be a stubborn ass to my wife. I knew that my mental health was a problem that might never go away. I knew that divorce has played a prominent role in my life and the statistics associated with that. I knew that I was lazy and liked my life a specific way.
I also knew that none of that would make a good husband or a father. I felt like it could never make a good husband or father no matter how you mixed all those components together. I’m still convinced to this day that it is an impossible project, but my wife keeps tinkering away at it.
I compare myself to my brother in laws and I wonder what they have that I don’t. I compare myself to my successful friends and wonder how they made it and I didn’t. I compare myself to every person that gets chosen to be hung out with instead of me by one of my friends. I’m just constantly curious about it, about why or why not.
I would be lying to you if I said that these comparisons were harmless. The rash of horrifying thoughts I had the night before and day of my last suicide attempt centered almost exclusively on the comparisons I have mentioned in this writing. They eat me alive sometimes.
All I want is simple: I want to be the smartest, most talented, funniest, most entertaining, most compassionate, easiest to talk to, impossible to not hang out with person that every single person I know, knows.
That shouldn’t be hard, right?