day 9: why we love comparison island

I felt stumped today thinking about comparison. Writing daily about the same topic is challenging me and boring me at the same time. Perhaps the real challenge is to keep myself from boredom? Moving on. I was praying today about what to write about, and I heard the answer back, Comparison is bad, write about that. 

But that’s so boring, so basic, so simple, I talk back. But the idea, it stays, and it stays because it is true. Comparison is bad, and no one wins living in this ugly, lifeless place.

So here it is, my list of impromptu reasons why I chose to live on comparison island. It’s not pretty, but comparison is an ugly reality.

We are introduced to it as children.

I absorbed a culture of comparison from the people around me. I grew up in a Sri Lankan family living in the Philippines, both cultures – Sri Lankan especially – thrive on comparison. (I’m speaking for the piece of Sri Lankan culture that I encountered, so mostly Tamil Christian culture, and I am not certain this part of Sri Lankan culture could survive if comparison did not exist. It is truly the lens through which people view their live.) I’m grateful for the way my parents did not verbally compare my sisters and I to each other or to other children, but unfortunately the message sent our way from the broader culture around us was a different one.

Children were compared with other people’s children, siblings with siblings, and fairly early on I learned that there were acceptable grades (high), attractive colour (light-to-white skin), pleasing personalities (no excessive talking), and a tight definition of beauty (I’m still not sure what this is, only that I was not one of the beautiful ones).

We like the power comparison gives us.

It is probably not too surprising that even though I lost in the comparison game of my childhood, it did not take me long to make the system “work” for me (in reality it never worked for me, but I certainly thought it did). I remember choosing and discarding friends based on how they compared with each other, losing a few women who would have made for high-quality, long term friendships. But the powerful feeling of being on the winning side of the comparison spectrum was like a drug.

I’ll stop at this point and continue with more tomorrow. In the mean time, I’m sure I’m not the only one with these reasons, maybe you recognize yourself in some of these as well? Or have a few others to add of your own?

I’m writing daily in October as part of The Nester’s 31 Days challenge, check out day 1,  2345, 6 and 8. Head over to the Nesting Place for other great 31 Days topics. 

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4 thoughts on “day 9: why we love comparison island”

  1. We do live in a culture of comparisons. Everyone always wants to be the winner. No matter what it is – the winner of the worst day or the winner of whatever it is. I’ll never forget the day I was thinking that I did not like people who always try and one up you when they tell a story. Like their story always has to be better than yours. Until I really started thinking about it and realized that I didn’t like it because I did the exact same thing. And I didn’t like to “lose” out with the lesser of the two stories. It is such a hard thing to overcome though, this living without always comparing things. It’s inbred. But in all reality, just because I made my story sound better than someone else did it doesn’t actually make the story better. I’m glad you’re focusing on this for your blog now. It’s really made me continue to think about these things!

    • Hi Kristen.. oh what a great example – I have so been in the exact same situation myself.. Great to hear from you again by the way. I was thinking about you because I was looking for those photos Frank took of us in 2009 (and couldn’t find them 🙁 ).

  2. I thought of your writing on comparison today at lunch, as I watched my two-year-old son methodically sort his goldfish crackers … all of the “perfect” ones stayed on his plate, while he set aside the ones that were broken or didn’t have well-defined smiles on his napkin. I thought it was telling that even an innocent who has hardly had enough months of life to know about comparison already does things like that. Or maybe he was just being observant and playing a game, but it did give me food for thought as I chomped on my pb&j!

    • That is interesting.. I’ve been amazed at the things I’ve seen our virtually-still-a-baby do that seem very.. well.. adult (hiding after he’s done something he knows he shouldn’t do, for example)


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