Today we ask you to let go of comparing yourself to other people.

Let go of comparing yourself with other people.

For many, this is like saying: “Let go of seeing the sky as blue.”  It is human nature to compare yourself with others, to see how you measure up against them, and to envy others for possessing what you perceive yourself to lack.

But comparison is a habit, and it can be dropped or certainly reduced like any habit.  And if you have any interest in finding peace in this life, releasing the compulsion to compare is a sure way to become more peaceful.

So let’s look at this.

The ego mind is always comparing itself.  Is this other person more successful than me?  Is this other person more attractive than me?  Is this other person smarter than me?  Is this other person more popular than me?  Is this other person more virtuous than me?  Is this other person better than me?  

That is the question: is the other person better than me, or am I better than the other person?

And if the ego mind decides that you are better than the other, you feel a puffed-up ego pride — that is, until you run up against someone who is better than you, as you inevitably will.

Ego minds are always making lists and rating things.  Who is the best?  Who is “Number One”?  And everyone strives for that coveted position, because it means they are better than the competition.  And second place and third place are okay — but, of course, not as good.

It is all very foolish.

It is like the tale of the “Emperor’s New Clothes.”  The Emperor believes he is Number One, because he happens to be the Emperor, and so has a very puffed-up ego.  He surrounds himself with flatterers and people who affirm how wonderful he is.  So he becomes quite delusional, quite cut off from reality, and is talked into wearing a “royal wardrobe” that leaves him stark naked — though no one has the guts to tell him so.

There are many such people in the world, little petty emperors with puffed-up egos, spending money on foolish things because they can’t bear the thought of someone else possessing something they do not have.

This is the path of misery.  For in life, status is always transitory.  Everyone ages, everyone loses their dominance, there is always someone younger, smarter, and more attractive coming along to supplant you.  So if your sense of security and well-being is attached to status, to comparison with others, you are doomed to be unhappy.

That is why it is wise to break this habit.

In order to break a habit, you must first accept that the habit is destructive, that it is not good for you.

Many people do not understand that comparison to others is unhealthy, and breeds misery.  They believe that they need to be competitive in order to succeed in life.  They must always be sizing up the competition, and looking for ways to increase their rank.

And maybe they will achieve some sort of momentary success in doing so, it is true.  But they will find no peace in it.  The moment will pass all too quickly.

So if you are interested in peace, it would be good to consider living in another way.

What if you could go through life without comparing yourself to others?  What would that look like?

You would just be exploring what interests you, following what brings you delight.  What other people do has nothing to do with you.  You can appreciate what other people create, but you do not perceive them as “better” than you.  They do what they do, and you do what you do.  Sometimes you collaborate with others, and sometimes you do things on your own.  It is not about status or achievement.  It does not matter what other people think of you.  You are not doing what you do to win status in the world.  You are just doing what you do.

It really is possible to live in this way.  And it is a very peaceful way to live, not to mention a frame of mind that is highly conducive to creative expression.

The reason it seems difficult is because human society and culture tends to be dominated by ego-driven, status obsessed individuals, so people are conditioned from a very young age to think in those terms.  There is also a primal quality, as animals may compete with each other for dominant status, although they don’t go around comparing themselves to other animals and feeling depressed.  That said, animals do possess a sense of “fairness,” which is to say they can get agitated when they see another animal get a “treat” and they do not, for instance.  Obviously small children have the same tendency, getting upset if another child gets to play with a special toy and they do not.

So it a combination of human culture, and certain aspects of mammalian nature that breeds the urge to compare.

But one might argue that it is possible for a mature human adult to transcend the behavior of a two-year-old, no matter what his society may have to say about it.

The first thing to understand is that the comparison really is not healthy, even if it is “human nature” and “everyone else does it.”  There are many things that a lot of humans do habitually that aren’t good for anyone.

Once this is accepted, it is good to observe how often you find yourself comparing yourself to other people.  Just pay attention and note when it happens.  Label it “comparing.”  “There I go comparing again.”  Don’t judge yourself for doing it, just make a mental note.

As soon as you do this, you will have created some distance from the act of comparison.  That way the thoughts will have less power over you.  You will not believe them so completely.

Another thing to do is to really take a clear look at the person you are comparing yourself to.  Recognize that most humans have complicated lives and deal with problems.  Physical beauty, wealth, fame, achievements — these things by no means guarantee happiness.  In fact, very often these things create deep unhappiness, because of their transitory nature.  

Be honest with yourself: if you suddenly had the things you covet about other people’s lives, do you think it would give you lasting happiness?  If you switched places with them, do you really think it would solve all your problems?

The ego mind always reduces and objectifies things: “the pretty woman,” “the rich man,” “the famous athlete.”  But that is not all these people are.  Everyone is human, everyone has a soul, everyone deals with their own dramas.  When you compare yourself to someone, you are not really seeing that person as he or she is, but rather a made-up image in your mind, a projection.  You are comparing yourself to an imaginary person.

So try to remember this when you notice yourself comparing.  Remember that you cannot know this person’s inner life.

The wise path is just to focus on yourself, on become a healthier and more peaceful person.  The more at peace you are inside yourself, the less you will engage in the old habit of comparing yourself with others.  You may still fall into it from time to time, but it will not have the same charge for you.  You will not believe in it so much.

It is fine in this life to be second place, or third place, or fourth place, or no place at all.

It is when you are content in “no place” that you can see clearly.  You will know that the world’s little emperors are not wearing any clothes.