As social beings, we consciously or unconsciously compare ourselves with others. It may be constructive or destructive depending on the context. In some circumstances, social comparison encourages us to give it a try when we see others accomplish something. To have a friend who consistently exercises and stays in a good shape may inspire you to do the same. When the comparison is on achievable variables what follows is the mindset, "I can also do this." In other cases we compare ourselves on factors that we can't change and the result becomes frustrating. If you happen to be vertically challenged and you compare yourself with your tall friend who is good at a slum dunk in basketball, it may make you feel bad. You probably will work on other areas of strength and compensate.
Social comparison can also take place in retrospect, looking back at your achievements and failures. We compare ourselves not only when we succeed but also when we fail. “My friends did it, but I couldn’t.” However, not everyone who misses the target is affected the same way by social comparison. In some cases, you may engage in social comparison after missing your mark and still be comforted. Here is an example.
Studies have shown that bronze medalists are happier than silver medalists. Why? The bronze medalist is grateful for not missing out a medal. The bronze medalist thinks, “I am glad I managed to be among the medalists.” However, the silver medalist thinks of what they could have done to be a gold medalist, or what they had done wrong to miss it.
LIFE LESSON: Someone who has less than what I have may enjoy their life while I live in regret thinking about what I could have done or what I shouldn’t have done. Let us appreciate what we have and be grateful. If we submit our will, isn’t God faithful to provide according to our needs?
Apostle Paul admonishes us to put our faith in God and be content with our circumstances knowing God is in charge.
"...for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength."
Phil 4: 11-13
How do you handle social comparisons? Have you been inspired by social comparison? Have you been discouraged?
What kind of mindset would you like God to grant you in circumstances when you feel like you are less privileged than others?