Comparison- A Good or Bad Thing?

Ray
Ray Henning, UNHS Academic Adviser

Something that is done a lot in our society is comparison.

People compare themselves with others in many aspects of life. Some of the common areas of comparison are appearance, athletics, education, occupations, possessions, finances, etc. We can feel good or bad about ourselves depending to who or what we are being compared.

Former U.S. President, Teddy Roosevelt, once said, “Comparison is a thief of joy.”

Personally, I have mixed feelings about comparisons. My competitive side sometimes likes to see where I rank to others, but I also realize many comparisons are not fair.

For example, having worked in education for almost 40 years, I have witnessed schools being compared by test scores and designated good or bad based solely on these scores. Obviously, the student clientele at all schools is not the same. To say a school is better because their test scores are higher than another school, may have just a lot to do with who is at the school, rather than what or how the students are being taught.

Using an athletic illustration, imagine two athletes, one with a talent level of ten and the other with a talent level of five. The first athlete is performing at a six and the second athlete is performing at a four. Although a six is higher than a four, the first athlete is using only 60% of his/her ability and the second athlete is performing at 80% of ability—so who is the better athlete?

Thus, perhaps a better way to use comparison is in the area of self-analysis. Are you getting better in whatever areas you are striving to improve?

  1. A good first step is to identify a baseline, a starting point.
  2. The next step is to work to get better and you need to check periodically if you are showing growth.

I particularly like this quote from the famous UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden:

“Success is the peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

Things to consider: Would you describe yourself as a success? How about reducing the amount of time you spend comparing yourself to others, but taking a good look at the person in the mirror?

Author: University of Nebraska High School

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