There is a danger in comparing your performance at the beginning of an undertaking to someone else who has been doing it for 15-20 years. It’s the danger of a new author comparing himself to a seasoned veteran. It can happen in any line of work – a doctor performing his first surgery, a lawyer giving his first delivery before a jury, a professor in the midst of her first semester.
This is a concept that I labored to explain in writing Thriving at College. Comparison with others can be demoralizing or helpful, depending on how we do it. It’s demoralizing if we internalize it to the extent that our sense of self-worth, dignity and significance is based entirely on our performance (today) in a particular area relative to someone else’s. That’s crushing, because there’s almost always someone out there who’s better than we are. We can despair of ever improving, and/or secretly hope for another person’s failure so that we can feel better about ourselves. But both self-pity and jealousy stem from sinful pride.
On the other hand, comparison can be helpful if we learn from others who are better than us. Study them. What do they do that sets them apart? How long have they been doing it? Are there ways that we can not only work harder, but work smarter? This kind of comparison lifts us up, without tearing the other person down.
HT: Jon Acuff