If you reflect on the matter patiently, you will discover that most people lead most of their lives in a comparative fashion. There is always some comparison with something or someone else. So much so, most achievements are polarized, as if they are on some weighing scale, as if you must do better than somebody else to be any good, as if you must be like someone else to be any better and so forth. There is this never ending race to keep your pace up with the world, to be somebody else. If you feel this way, the fault is not really yours. The solution though lies in you. Read on to know what I mean.

From the moment you can recall to the present one, there has always been some form of comparison in your life. No matter how hard you worked, how well you did, there was perhaps someone else who was better in the eyes of the parents, teachers, peers and so forth. The goal, even when achieved, seemed unattainable. It is somewhat ironic that our society actually seeks pleasure in winning and losing, rather than playing. Winning feels so exhilarating that absence of compassion in the winner towards the loser appears natural. Sometimes, there is even a sense of fulfillment, of joy, in the suffering of others; Germans have a word for it: Schadenfreude. Do you really want to be in some race in such a society?

Once upon a time, there was a young man. He was pursuing his doctorate in Rocket Science. He was skinny but intelligent. A beautiful young girl found his intellect irresistible and became his girlfriend. All his friends were jealous of him. They tried their best to somehow cause a rift in their relationship but were unsuccessful. One day, a student in the university, a bodybuilder and heavy weightlifting champion, bullied the young man and asked him to stop going out with the girl.

Our man was just over one hundred pounds whereas the big guy weighed twice as much. The laws of physics were against him yet he refused to be bullied. The weightlifter beat him to pulp. The young man vowed to build his body and teach him a lesson. He took leave of absence from the university, worked out in the gym, tripled his diet, drank protein shakes and all. In just under a year, he doubled his weight too. He was less agile than before but it was a small price to pay, he thought. Determined to give it back, he went back to the campus.

He got beaten again though, more badly than before. His friends visited him in the hospital and wondered how come he lost even though he weighed over two hundred pounds now.
“The big guy weighed 350 pounds this time,” he managed to let out a few words from his broken jaw.

When you get into some race of doing better in comparison to some other person, it becomes an endless and a meaningless pursuit. You may experience some happiness when you reach your goal, the journey will remain flat and lifeless though. It will remain a stressful trek. No matter how good you get, there is always going to be someone who will be better than you. You must set your own benchmark. If you must, let others’ achievements be your inspiration and not an aim.

Next time you are down because you are not like so-and-so person, because someone else is doing better than you, please know that you are being silly. Remind yourself that it is directly stemming out of your conditioning. You really do not have to be anyone else to be happy, to give meaning to your life. You are free to feel inspired from others’ success but do not fall into the trap of becoming them. Imitation may be the best form of flattery but when you aim to copy someone else, you lose your own identity; when you lose that, the very basis of your world — you and your inner strength — is shaken to the core. The journey becomes a drag and goal remains out of sight.

A kid clad in night-suit joined a group of other children dressed to the occasion of Halloween. They knocked on a neighbor’s door.
“Trick or treat,” they shouted in excitement and anticipation as soon as the door opened.
A generous lady came out and gave candies but was surprised to see one of the kids in his pajamas.
“And, what are you being today?” she asked lovingly.
“I’m just being lazy.”

Like they say, “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” When you choose in comparison to others, when you determine your own value in contrast to others, when you rank yourself based on someone else’s criteria, you do not add life to your years. In fact, it is more like taking the life out of your living; only years remain. Pointless.

Be yourself. Discover yourself.

Peace.
Swami

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