Compare & Despair – Sunday Surgical Scrub – 6 November 2016


“When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare, everybody will respect you.”

-Lao Tzu


TASK AT HAND: This week I’m thinking about the pitfalls of comparing ourselves to others. “The human brain is built to compare; it’s Darwinian to consider an alternative when one presents itself” (Helen Fisher). Multiple studies, from monkeys to humans, show that we are hardwired to compare ourselves to others. There is a basis for a need to compare – it’s part of our evolutionary drive. We look to compare options for refuge and food, to assess alternatives to mates and future offspring, and how to judge potential threats in our environment.

Now, the pitfall occurs when comparison is escalated with judgment. It’s fine to compare one hotel to the other, consider prices and geography when making a choice for lodging. However, when we compare our hotel to a nicer option, and judge ours as inferior, we start to degrade our degree of satisfaction from an experience. This need to compare is a sure way to decrease our happiness because we ostensibly look at those who have more leading to judging ourselves as lesser.

“You can’t compare an apple to an orange. It will cause a lot of self-esteem issues” (Craig Sheffer). The problem is magnified when we compare ourselves to other people. This is never a fair comparison because we tend to, as the preceding quote describes, compare apples to oranges. No two individuals are the same, and thus, any subsequent comparison is faulty. You need to avoid this malevolent want to compare because its eventual conclusion is despair and insecurity.

How do you avoid the cycle of compare and despair? Judgment is the key! Compare all you want, but don’t judge. Don’t judge a better or worse option. And, most importantly, avoid comparisons between individuals with simplified “better” or “worse” terms. This faulty comparison is filled with intangibles that surfaces insecurities and inadequacies.

When we compare and judge ourselves as inferior,

we start to degrade our degree of satisfaction from an experience.

Similar to my previous post on Anticipation versus Expectation (you can find that post here), liberate yourself from mindless comparisons and find value in the attributes of different individuals and the characteristics of different options. “The surest route to breeding jealousy is to compare. Since jealousy comes from feeling less than another, comparisons only fan the fires” (Dorothy Corkille Briggs).

In my opinion, the most vital form of happiness is derived from the respect we pay to others, and the respect we receive in return. Focus on the value you provide to relationships and members of your tribe. Hone skill in accepting events beyond our control. You will find that the need to compare to others fades away into the singularity of realizing that, the only one worth comparing to, is yourself.

MEDICINE & MACULA: I do a significant amount of speaking and presenting to diverse groups, from retina surgeons to corporate clients. But this past Monday, on Halloween, I got the privilege of presenting an “eye introduction” to my son Max’s preschool class. It was a wonderful time with a lot of props as you can see below.


Although rudimentary in its content, it served to remind me that I sometimes get caught up in esoteric specialized terminology. Speaking to these hungry-eyed preschoolers emphasized that one must have a bulletproof ability to distill complex information in a basic and accessible form to any audience. I am grateful for this.

With the help from my wife, Jasmine, we all made scary eyes for the class!


GRATIS: “If you’re asking me to compare myself to other people, I don’t really know what other people are like.” -Jules Shear

My best to you,

David Almeida

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