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Friday, May 18, 2012

Compare and Contrast: The Venn Diagram of Life

I've been thinking a lot about the concept of comparing ourselves to others.  Not just in regards to physical appearance, but in every conceivable way.  I'd like to share my thoughts on the subject in the rest of the post.

When people discuss serious illnesses, they often cite cases of cancer, heart disease, AIDS, kidney failure, etc.  LET ME BE CLEAR ABOUT THIS NEXT POINT:  I am NOT downplaying these illnesses AT ALL.  They are, in fact, very, very serious, and often fatal.  However, I believe the most "serious illness" facing humankind today is one you will never find on a list of "worst illnesses."  In fact, I'm not sure if anyone else would consider it an illness.  And while it is not technically fatal, it can make your life an awful experience if you let it consume you.

This illness I am mentioning, dear friends, is the illness of comparing ourselves to others....and each and every person on earth suffers with it.  We constantly think about ourselves in terms of other people.  And 9 times out of 10, when we do this, we are thinking about the millions of other ways we perceive others to be "better" than us.

Answer me this:  Have you ever said anything to the effect of, "She looks great in that dress but I could never pull it off" or "Man, there's no way I'm going to be voted president of this organization if he is running" or any number of other thoughts in the same vein??

I'm just going to assume your answer is yes, because it's human nature.  We have an innate ability to focus on the areas of others' lives that seem to be "better" than our own lives, which then leaves us feeling inadequate and like me can never measure up.

I'm calling all people (myself included) out in this next segment.  Remember in school when a teacher would have you draw a Venn Diagram (example here) and compare AND CONTRAST two objects/people/stories, etc.??  I submit that's how we need to start looking at our life.  It is easy to just compare ourselves to other people and think negatively about ourselves in relation to those other people, but it is also imperative that we contrast ourselves with others.  I'm not saying we point out the good in them and the negatives in us, but rather if we are intent on focusing on the positive qualities of others, we must also make a conscious effort to focus on the positives in OURSELVES.

For instance, there is someone I have known for years -- and every time I see this person, even if we're not talking, I am instantly filled with insecurity because this person is constantly surrounded by a large group of friends, is always smiling, and has more confidence than anyone I know.  It is very, VERY easy for me to see this person and think to myself, "Gosh, I wish I had it made like that.  I wish I had a countless number of friends.  I wish when people saw me they would want to come over and talk to me.  I wish I was that outgoing and extroverted."  And to be brutally honest for all of us, there will ALWAYS be someone who is smarter, who is more well-liked, who is better able to communicate, who has no trouble in situations that may stress us out to the max, who society will deem "prettier," etc.  So if we base our own self-worth and self-image on how we perceive others, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

But as of this moment, I am making a conscious effort to also focus on the areas of my life that are different, as far as I can see, that is.  The one that most readily comes to mind is that I can empathize with and relate to every single person I encounter.  Seriously, not many people can do that.  And I say that not to brag, but while this other person may have "better" looks than me, may perform better than me academically, or may have more friends, my ability to empathize and relate to others is something I wouldn't trade no matter what I would get in return.

The key part of the Venn Diagram of Life, though, is that yes, we have to highlight comparisons and contrasts, but we ALSO need to focus on ways we are the same compared to person X.  And I'll be honest, that is the absolute HARDEST part of the diagram to complete, because as humans, we don't WANT to place ourselves on the same level as someone we deem "better" than us.

So yes, my challenge to you all is to start working on that Venn Diagram of your life and see how you feel once complete.  I'm going to do mine, as well.

God bless,


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