Dare To Compare – or Should we Steer Clear?



As the first month of university courses has come to end, by this point we have all earned some “constructive criticism” from our professors, peers and employers. This is the time of year when everything seems so fresh and these are the precious moments when we try to build our foundation and reputation in order to start the school year off right. However, as the season changes, so do many of our moods. You may have heard these phrases blurted on several occasions during this time of year: “Why did he/she get the job instead of me?” “Why did he/she receive a grant instead of me?” “Why did he/she receive a higher grade?” “It’s not fair!”

Although these may seem like childish questions and declarations, often time we can’t help but compare ourselves. It is HUMAN NATURE to want to be the best and be recognized for our efforts. Competition is flowing through our veins, and whether we’d like to admit it or not, it is the truth. Even as a society, most of the time scholarships, awards, grants and even jobs are offered to students who excel in their courses, those who score top of their class and those who consistently earn the highest grades, not those who make the biggest effort in the process. Your boss, professor or superior isn’t likely to praise you based on “most improved” or “consistent effort,” they are going to award you based on “stats,” “hard evidence” and “concrete facts,” and that’s a fact! But let’s look more closely at the issue at hand, shall we?

As a teacher, I hear these comparative phrases vocalized daily…and to be quite honest, I don’t have all the answers, but I do have the experience. When it comes to life, work and social norms…we must constantly remind ourselves that we might not always be the best at everything, but that shouldn’t stop us from doing our best. This can also be attributed to our civilization and be related to more of a cultural element, allow me to me explain. Whenever I leave Canada, whether it is on a vacation, a meeting or a business trip, I try to grasp as much as I can from my cultural surroundings. I see the way workers live and the standards of living abroad and I used to constantly tell myself, “Wow, I am so lucky to live in Canada” while simultaneously contrasting the foreign country’s standards of living or the locals’ daily routines to my own. But more recently, I have begun reflecting on this notion and have started seeing things differently.

I have come to realize that it is not always the case and comparison is not a good way to perceive a situation or the world around you…and I will explain why. One way of looking at it is we can learn from people all around the world if we stop comparing and start communicating. If we put up a barrier, we are only blocking ourselves from prospective knowledge. If there’s one thing I view as a recurring trend when I travel abroad I see working class people that live in simplicity and learn to appreciate what they have…something we, as a society have a difficult time doing. Living in an immensely fast-paced, technologically and economically growing country, we should learn to take our time more. We need to avoid being continuously jaded by our first-world problems and stop contrasting and comparing ourselves to everyone around us. We can learn from people all over the world just as easily as we can learn from our classmates, colleagues or even strangers. This is true. But we should remain true to ourselves in the process.

These are my top three reasons why comparing ourselves to others may be detrimental to ourselves and to our advancement…in terms of education and the workforce:

  • We will be tempted to copy others. No one was ever looked up to or idolized by “acting” like someone else. Inspirational leaders are innovative and challenge the norm. In fact, they set the stage for the future innovators. And the last time I checked, copying someone’s work was called plagiarism. Save yourself the headache: be inspired by others, but be original.


  • Comparing and judging go hand in hand.  By judging yourself and others, although you are attempting to improve yourself or learn from them, you are actually moving backwards instead of forward. When we judge one another it is increasingly harder to accept others and work as a team towards a collaborative goal. If you spend all your time judging others’ creativity, when will you have time to come up with something of your own?


  • Embrace imperfection. No one in this world is perfect and although it is cliché to say, our imperfections are what make us who we are, unique. If everyone were perfect there would be no room for improvement, direction and growth as individuals.


Appreciate all your assets, talents and skills: Most of us don’t take advantage of all of our gifts and talents. Whether you are skilled in a sport, a great problem solver or a convincing public speaker…all of your abilities make you valuable to a team and you never know when they might come in handy. For instance, living in Quebec, a bilingual province is a huge advantage in the workforce as well as in the educational realm. It’s easy to forget about all the languages we speak here and fail to see this as an advantage because it’s second nature to us! However, it makes us really unique as a society and is extremely beneficial in the long run. Canada is one of the most culturally mosaic countries on earth. This should grant us a greater appreciation of the possibilities that we have here in Montreal, along with Canada. In my own experience, especially after having worked as an ESL teacher with immigrants for the past five years, I have learned that language is one of the strongest tools you can acquire. Ultimately, communication is key but experience is vital. Make an effort during your classes. Learn from your mistakes. Laugh everyday… even though the thought of exams rolling around the corner might make you want to cry. Reach out for help when you need it because the resources are all around you. Make connections and compare notes (yes, that’s one form of comparison that’s okay!) Make the most of your days by bettering yourself, striving to attain your goals and helping those around you.


I leave you with two quotes that I could not choose between:


“Personality begins where comparison leaves off. Be unique. Be memorable. Be confident. Be proud.”

– Shannon L. Alder


“Comparison is a thug that robs your joy. But it’s even more than that – Comparison makes you a thug who beats down somebody – or your soul.”

– Ann Voskamp


Lisa Trotto



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