Answer by Awdhesh Singh, author and former IRS Commissioner, on Quora.
We have a natural desire within ourselves to compare ourselves with other.
We are not born with the desire of comparison. As a child, we did not compare ourselves with anyone. We were happy to be ourselves as we loved our uniqueness.
However, slowly we were told that we must be better than others. This starts happening since a child goes to the school. You are constantly told to get the top rank in the class or stand among the top. If you play a game, you must play to win and be the best player. If you get a lower rank, you are shamed and even humiliated. Gradually, we start believing that in order to be happy and make others happy, we must be better than others. You must work harder to be better than others by any means.
This is an impossible goal to achieve for humanity since everyone can’t be better than everyone else in this world. This is theoretically impossible. The result is frustration and anger in the modern civilized society due to our inability to meet our expectations.
The roots of comparison and competition are sown in the tender mind of the children of the modern world. Gradually the roots become so deep that they become our nature and making comparison becomes our natural response when we meet someone.
Little can we do about our mental conditioning which has already become our basic nature. Yet we can use our tendency of comparison for better living in the following way.
1: Count Your Blessings
When you compare yourself with others, focus on where you are better off. Learn to appreciate what you have rather than getting frustrated over what you lack.
2: Learn from Others
It has been my experience of life that I have grown only when I have worked with people who are better than me. If you don’t have a good competitor, you don’t find motivation to work harder. Hence, when you find someone better than you, try to learn something from him and become better than what you are even if you don’t match or excel that person.
3: Respect Good Qualities
It is wrong to criticize people who are better than you by discovering something negative in them. A negative of a person does not negate his positives. A criminal or a corrupt person too should be respected if he risks his life to save life of another man. When you focus on the good qualities of other people, you gradually develop those qualities in yourself. If you focus on their negatives, you become likewise.
You can’t discard your tendency to compare.
However, you can still use it for living a better life.