the root of all evil : compare compare compare


My previous post talked about the detriment of focusing on achievements all the time, as I lose sight of other important things in life as my friends, relationships and my health. Yet another reason why I have been feeling unhappy all these years also stem from over-achieving – comparisons came as a by-product…

Perhaps it was childhood experience, and the wanting to avoid disappointment, or it was simply an inherent competitive nature within me. Whatever the underlying reasons, the reality was that I placed too much emphasis on achievements. Every time I sprinted forwards towards the prize, I looked around to see whether others had already reached that destination I’ve set my heart on. Did they get there faster? Are they captain of the basketball team and not me? Did they speak more languages than me 10 years earlier? Do the make more money? Are their apartments bigger? Why is someone’s blog wider-read than mine even on the same topic? Her eyelashes are longer…

And with endless comparisons, jealousy was stemmed deep within me. And jealousy made me unhappy.


I looked around me and wondered why I don’t have what others have, why I haven’t achieved what others have achieved. I wanted to be better, faster, smarter, prettier —  from the comparative I thirsted for the superlative. Then the vicious cycle began and all I could think of was how to achieve more in a shorter space of time. The more I indulged in these imaginary competitions, the more I got caught in comparing with just about every person I brushed shoulders with on the streets of Omotesando or the Champs Elysees, instead of enjoying the aesthetic of the cities I lived in.

I was especially jealous of one particular friend, S. For all I was concerned, he was more composed, well-travelled, elegant, spoke too many languages fluently, had the better postings, got better performance ratings, knew his wine, got invited to more parties, more cultured, had more friends, was funnier, bought an investment property, got his CFA while I flunked mine twice, were buddies with more senior managers, more sociable, more refined, had better taste, had a great family, had a holiday home in southern France… every other thing possible I could think of I deemed him better than me. Perhaps the only thing I didn’t compare with S was my shoe and handbag collection.

I wanted to beat him, I was extremely jealous of him but I couldn’t admit it. I was drugged with achieving more and more so I could feel that I was at least his equal after elevating him to an imaginary pedestal. I was so poisoned in my own jealousy I almost wanted to be him and have his life. I was comparing to such irrationalities that I always treated him with a tint of suspicion and distrust – I was skeptical of what he told me, always thinking he had an ulterior motive so I had to “protect” myself. From what?

In fact, it was more likely I projected my own resentment onto him, and so thought that he was out to get me, whereas it was actually me, who was the one subconsciously trying to surpass him and pushing him away. I was so mesmerized by this idea of S that sometimes I was confused as to whether I actually liked or disliked him, and whether we were friends or not. I somehow convinced myself that he was not a genuine friend towards me. It was maybe I, who was mean to him in the end.

Unfounded comparisons and envy crippled me, and perhaps barred us from becoming closer friends.

Eventually I mustered up the courage recently to apologize and tell S I was jealous of him and always compared myself to him. Nerve wrecking. But perhaps this apology was one step towards healing my soul. There’s no telling to what could have been between us, but what I look forward to is the future, to redevelop the friendship with S and many others I have been jealous of.

Comparing has taken away many people from me. It has made me jealous and bitter. Let not comparisons get the better of you.

To all those I’ve compared myself to, and as a result hurt your feelings in any way: I sincerely apologize.

Indeed, what good and productivity does comparisons bring?

The mere effort of comparing expends so much unnecessary energy, which we could otherwise have spent on reading a book or sipping a cup of tea, or simply catching up on quality sleep.

I’m trying very hard to stop comparing myself to anyone right now. When I feel the urge, I say to myself: “I’m me, and that’s all good.”

Start loving yourself, and being proud of yourself. There is no need for comparison.

14 Responses

  1. Thanks for this open and honest post, Noch – powerful words. I also wrote a blog about this topic that you might enjoy:

  2. […] why compare? Every blogger have their reasons for writing. I didn’t have to do the same thing just to be […]

  3. […] think: But you told me not to compare myself with others when I told you I was envious of others who have achieved more than me. So how double […]

  4. My sister always compare herself with her friends. I’m not sure why she does this when she’s a way better person than they are. Focusing on virtues like compassion, prudence ,and wholesomeness helps to see what you have is very precious.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Canadian Women

      That’s very well said – focusing on compassion and prudence and wholesomeness. Thanks for the reminder to us all!

      Noch Noch

  5. […] this me? Sounds about right. Hugely competitive, and extremely impatient. Bossy and control freak to say the least (ask my […]

  6. Christina says:

    I agree with you Noch Noch. I used to have facebook and decided to end it when I started to compare myself to my facebook friends. I knew that wasn’t healthy for me and it didn’t get me anywhere. They were living their lives and I would sometimes wish that was me instead. I think social networking can make people feel less of themselves when they see other people have things that they don’t. We all have to be happy with ourselves and when we aren’t we need to remember who we are and that it’s ok to be ourselves. Your teaching me that it’s alright to accept ourselves.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Christina

      Thanks for your thoughts. I think we get caught into looking at other people’s happy lives, and forget they also have troubles and just don’t publicize it on facebook etc… so we have a skewed view. But yes it’s ok to accept ourselves and be who we are. Then looking at others’ lives we will just be happy for them!

      noch noch

  7. […] and what have you done? Another year over, another just begun…” And I had a sudden moment of disappointment at […]

  8. richardo mustachio says:

    I was trapped in the web of comparative dissection and jealousy for years. Where was my acknowledgement? I could never be that… tall, slim, handsome, funny… my hips are too wide for a man’s ( boy’s) my arms too scrawny, my head too large. *they* were better students, more popular, everyone liked them, they were athletically inclined and impossibly cool.
    Later in life it became *they * had a license, a car a girlfriend… place of their own, college degree, career, wife.

    And in growing bitterness, *they* have a balanced mind they have no disabilities, addictions, or hardships like mine. They were born into money, had the ability to try harder had the damn dumb luck in life. That’s it! Sheer luck, they took it all!

  9. richardo mustachio says:

    I turned all that energy I spent in jealousy and self ridicule toward improving myself and reflecting on just how far I’ve come. Now I have a car and a job and even a few friends. I can go out of my home and spend time in the world. The trick was in allowing me to give myself credit.

    It takes so much more for us to get to where other people are in life (or get back to) that any gain no matter how small is impressive and worthy of praise from ourselves. The most important praise, when appropriate, that anyone can achieve. We, everybody, go far out of our own way to criticize ourselves. We are trained to, in every culture, it is a human trait.

  10. […] and what have you done? Another year over, another just begun…” And I had a sudden moment of disappointment at […]

  11. […] sometimes I complain that I don’t travel as much as other people, especially these days when I am stuck where I am physically and mentally, and when I […]

about Noch Noch

Enoch Li, (pen name: Noch Noch) was born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. She loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2010 due to her illnesses and after spending time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress, she has transitioned into a Social Entrepreneur and founded BEARAPY to help corporates make workplaces mentally healthy, and support executives to become more resilient.