Compare = Despair?

By Anne Reilly


I consider my role as a therapist to be a very privileged one. I am trusted and invited in to peoples lives to help them process their deepest worries and most intimate thoughts. Over time I have recognised themes that come up in the therapy room and in my own personal life. One significant theme is the tendency we have to compare to others.


Of course there are times when comparisons to others can inspire and motivate us to make positive decisions in our lives. However, in a lot of cases there is a debilitating effect that leads to overwhelming feelings of inadequacy, disappointment and sometimes hopelessness.

The biggest and most obvious example I can draw on in our current day is of course social media and the projection of happiness and fulfilment portrayed minute by minute on our screens. But even without social media there has always been cultural, religious, political and social norms that have heavily influenced our beliefs and the way be behave and think about ourselves and our relationships.


In Sydney we have signs of wealth all around us. There is always a bigger house, a fancier car, better clothes, the best school, the best job, the fitter body, the smartest children, the happiest couple and so on..


When we look outwards and compare we lose sight of ourselves. We overlook what we already have and what it is that makes us satisfied, regardless of what others think. Couples often look to other couples who they perceive as “perfect” and therefore feel inadequate about their own relationship. Parents can look at other families and believe that those families have better behaved and smarter children. When we do this our partners and our children get the message that they are not good enough and the feelings of inadequacy, disappointment and hopelessness get passed around.

We can never know what really goes on in other’s lives and I believe it’s wasted energy to focus on what others project as success. We can only control our own choices, thoughts and feelings and that takes enough energy as it is!


Seeking outwards and getting paralysed with inadequacy is a waste of our precious resources. Come back to what you do have and what is within your control and influence and make decisions based on what is right for you, your relationship and your family. Place more focus on gratitude and achieve fulfilment based on the “here and now” and what “is” rather than what “isn’t”.