Gaining some perspective on these can help put an end to them

I’ve heard it said that comparison can be a dangerous thing and I believe it.  Always holding your accomplishments, your life or your abilities up next to someone else’s is just about as good a recipe for frustration and disappointment as I can imagine.  The recommended route, I’m told, is to compare yourself to who you were yesterday.  The problem is that the small changes you can barely see in the mirror or the classroom or the boardroom don’t ever look like much until you look back on them from some distance in time.  Take this picture for instance.

18 bdayThis skinny kid is putting together a weight bench that he’s certain is the answer to his non-beefiness.  He’s certain that with weightlifting equipment at home he can work out in between his workouts at school and have biceps like John Jorgenson or quads like Jeff Jacobs (two upperclassmen who dominated in the weight room).  Maybe if he works out three times a day he will have springs like Scott Karstens or a jumpshot like Mark Carpenter.  Perhaps he’ll even hurdle like Joe Hodge!  Nah, that’s a pipe dream, no way he’s ever going to hurdle like that, but you never know.  You never know.

82 promHere’s that same kid.  Still skinny and this time he’s been measured, measured for a tux (with ruffles no less) and he’s headed to the prom.  He’s still not filling out that jacket and although the picture’s awfully grainy you can kind of see his complexion isn’t nearly as clear as a lot of the other kids.  His hair’s a little goofy too (even looks goofier today).  He’s hoping to appear confident although he’s beginning to come to the realization he might never be comfortable in social situations.  He’s stopped most of the internal comparisons to the kids from town who seem to fit together so much better but he’s still got a long way to go.  Being comfortable in his own skin will take some time and we’re not just talking about acne.  It will be a lot of years until he gets there.  It’s probably best he doesn’t know how many.  Along the way there will be all kinds of stops and starts that he’ll try and measure to figure out how far he’s gone and how far he has to go.

17 mileInterestingly enough here’s something else recently measured; a bike ride.  Years later when his knees are shot, he’s put on the weight he always chased in his youth (but in all the wrong places) and his health forces him to come up with some way to get some exercise he’ll turn to something he didn’t do in his youth.  He’ll get on a bike and pedal across states, in multi-day circles and even dream up goofy projects in the name of writing and keeping things interesting as he fights age and midline expansion.  He’ll meet interesting people far crazier than he is when it comes to biking and far better when it comes to speed and endurance.  But it won’t matter as much.  When he’s older it will be more about marching to the beat of his own drum or pedaling to his own cadence.  Sure, there’ll be times when he’ll wish he was more of a type A personality but he’ll realize that type B suits him just fine and he’ll get to the same destination even if its several hours later.  For the most part he’ll leave the measurements to someone else.  Putting those things behind him will be one of the benefits of age.

If there’s anything this formerly spindly guy could impart to his younger self it’d be this:  relax.  You may get there, you may not.  You may build your body to atlas status or you may have to live vicariously through your son.  Things that seem important today can seem trivial next year and if you’re wise you’ll resist the temptation to take up other things for comparison when you get that year down the road.  Finally, it’s not wrong to compete, competition is good, but it is wrong to hammer yourself for not being a way that you weren’t made or intended to be.  It’s not that you can’t try; it might just be that God didn’t make you like that.  He gave you things that the person you don’t measure up to wishes they could have.  Work on those things.  Chances are there’s value in them and if you work on them and keep at it you’ll become the guy who’s known as that guy.  And that’s pretty cool.

We push a lot don’t we?  I’ve gotten past most of trying to be something I’m not but it still rears its ugly head once in a while.  I hope this gave you some perspective on comparison and measurement.  If it might do someone you love some good I hope you’ll share it with them.

If you would like to read more of my writing click here and you’ll go to my blog’s home page.  You can subscribe to it there or just click this.  Subscribing is free and means you get an email on Saturdays with links to the posts for that week.  Please don’t worry, I never sell or share emails so you won’t be inundated with a bunch of spam.