Happiness and Comparison: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Part I

The closest I’ve ever found to a one-page How To Do Life is Desiderata, a prose poem by Max Ehrmann. There is a bit about comparison in it:

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Comparison is a tool often used by people when they’re down or anxious or just don’t feel good about themselves, to gather evidence of their inadequacy or defend against it. Both work against you: if you come out “less than” obviously you will feel bad about yourself. If you come out “better than,” you will fear losing this status so you have to keep aware of whether or not you are still on top. Plus you can’t help but look down on the others you’ve deemed “less than.” Obviously, comparison can be harmful.

And yet… is it always? Is it possible to use comparison to contribute in a healthy way to your life and perhaps others’ as well?

Next week: Happiness and Comparison: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly Part II