From the beginning, we are constantly comparing ourselves to other people. Schools reinforce social comparison using grades, test scores, and certificates until it becomes almost secondhand. As soon as a test is handed back, many students begin to ask their friends, “What did you get?”
We are taught to feel good if we have higher grades and more rewards than our peers. But it doesn’t make me feel good. It makes me feel sick.
Whether in school or not, the things we use to compare ourselves to each other are completely arbitrary and are rarely indicative of actual effort, intelligence, or character. For those who end up on the lower end of the scale, often unfairly, this system rams down their throats a single message: You are not enough. And that message is toxic. That message can kill.
I often say that I take human beings one at a time. That’s because every single human being is different. Comparing us all to each other, and comparing us all to a single arbitrary standard, just doesn’t make sense. I’m tired of looking at the people around me and thinking, they’re smarter, they’re more beautiful, they’re more interesting, they’re more creative, they’re better than I am.
Some Eastern religions, such as Buddhism and Taoism, have a teaching roughly equivalent to this: if there are seven million people, there are seven million different ways to live. As long as you are not harming others, live true to your heart, and let others do the same.
I have to remind myself of that a lot.
For instance, I have to remind myself of that when I feel like I don’t “qualify” to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Because the typical narrative is that gay people have always known they were gay, and being gay is a huge part of their lives, and non-cis folks have always felt non-cis and experience severe gender dysphoria and being non-cis is also a huge part of their lives. That might be true for a lot of people, and that’s totally valid – but none of that applies to me. For me, my gender identity and sexuality are just small facets of the very complex human being that I am. I don’t feel the need to come out to people or make a big deal out of it. I don’t care if other people know, I don’t care what pronouns are used to refer to me – the only thing that matters to me is that I have a better understanding of myself. That’s just my way of life. And I’m tired of feeling like I have to compare my way of life to others.
I’m tired of making that comparison and deciding that I’m “not enough“.