Desiderata by Max Ehrmann is a 1927 prose poem. ("Desiderata" Latin: "desired things")
5. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
This instruction tells me that we are to compete with ourselves. Competing with ourselves mitigates, somewhat, the traps of vanity and bitterness. It's okay to have role models, to aspire to a vision, or to emulate the qualities of greatness; but, when I compare myself with others, it's not pretty. It's pathetic. It stems from low self-esteem and insecurity. It's a false equivalency, elusive and fleeting.
The only constant is me. I know my story, my character, my skill set, my P.R.I.V.I. Comparing myself with others is like shopping at an exclusive store that's too expensive for my budget; that carries items that don't fit me or my lifestyle; that's located in an area that's hard to reach; and has folks who don't want to wait on me, anyway. I'm there to feed my vanity, but I end up leaving bitter.
To choose not to compare myself with others, but instead choosing to compete with myself requires knowing what I bring to the table; and the courage and determination to do the best I can with what I have. This is the stuff of originality. My stuff. Your stuff.
Comparing ourselves to others takes considerable psychological energy, and very little creative and emotional energy; however, competing with ourselves is all consuming. It's a battle between mediocrity and excellence, and we're the evaluators. We set the standard.
Our originality does not necessarily prevent others from making comparisons. They may point out similarities and differences that could, unintentionally, engender in us either vanity or bitterness - if we let it. The difference is, we're not doing the comparing; we're the comparee, not the comparer.
Competing with ourselves has its rewards. It forces us to be self analytical and use critical thinking skills to attain excellence. it encourages us to ask pertinent and focused questions to attain clarity. It gives us the courage to move forward with our stuff knowing that there will always be a need and a place for healthy unapologetic innovation, uniqueness, and originality.
Always there will be greater and lesser persons than ourselves. We can accept that as true. It's called diversity. Each of us has a purpose that no one else can perform. Accepting that truth, nullifies the threat of vanity and bitterness.
Thank you for reading. What are your thoughts?
Dedicated to my sons Jibri and Chris, my privilege and blessing. EcwmB