"I often scrutinize myself, contemplating my career, fitness levels, even the legitimacy of my own problems versus those of my friends."

Why Comparing Yourself to Others is Still a Waste of Time

Had I known how cool it can be to be in your 30s, I wouldn’t have approached it with such trepidation (read: sheer terror). I mean, yes, there is that whole realization-of-one’s-own-mortality thing. That’s a bummer. But there’s also more self-confidence, less caring about others people’s opinions, and some seriously great sex.

(At 29, I would’ve worried what people would think if I wrote that. Now, well, see above.)

Another cool thing is that you discover that those truisms people have been trying to impress upon you since you were a cynical tyke are actually pretty accurate. And, sometimes, those truisms can come from the very people your old cynical-self used to look to for a good dose of anger and apathy. In this case, that person was Kurt Cobain, and the truism had to do with comparing yourself to others: “Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are.”

Now, I was never a hardcore Nirvana fan the way some of my peers were. While I did feel a palpable, collective breathlessness when Cobain’s death was announced (and when its 20th anniversary was remembered this past weekend), I guess I just never felt as close to him as I did to other singer-songwriters.

Then I heard that line from him and I couldn’t help but think that I’d never given him a chance to be anything other than the gruff misanthrope I’d pigeonholed him as, when really, he was also a hopeful intellectual.

It also struck that I’d never given the whole “comparing yourself to others is a waste of time” idea a chance, but I mulled it over a lot this week. I often scrutinize myself, contemplating career accomplishments, fitness levels, even the legitimacy of my own problems versus those of my friends.

But for the first time ever, knowing that I do this scared me. Comparing yourself to others is a time-waster in a very literal sense. It accomplishes nothing but you’ve forever lost the minutes you’ve spent doing it. And those minutes add up to hours, which add up to days, which could ultimately add up to years. How much of our time has been wasted because we sized ourselves up to someone else, or to some ideal that was created to sell us a product?

And what good in the world could have been done with that time? How many people have I missed out on helping, perhaps people who, like Cobain, were lost and who needed me to ignore my own self-criticism and just listen?

This thought was enough to shake me, making me realize that now, the moment l feel the urge to compare myself is probably the very moment I need to think of myself as someone whose opinions I care a lot less about.

Thanks, Kurt.

Follow Erica on Twitter @ericaruthkelly. 

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