Let's face it, we all compare ourselves to others multiple times every day. Since comparing ourselves to others is something we do so often - we might as well learn how to do it right. By right, I mean with the result being that we feel more grateful about our current situation, not less grateful. Feeling less grateful is typically what happens when we compare ourselves to others.

Here's a little phrase that I like to use to help me feel more grateful when I find myself comparing myself to others. It's just eight words and helps me to keep my attention focused on my blessings instead of my perceived lack.

I first heard this little eight word phrase listening to a talk radio show by a guy named Joe Crummey. I don't listen to much talk radio anymore- much less than I used to- I find much of it incompatible with a peaceful mind and a drain of attention from things I can control (myself) to things I can't (everyone and everyting else). But I digress. The main thing I remember about Joe Crummey's show was how he would respond to callers that would inevitably ask "How's it going?" He would answer:

"Better than most, not as good as some."

It struck me as clever and funny when I first heard that, but over time, I have learned that there is actually great wisdom in that phrase. Over the years since hearing this phrase, I have thought of it often as I have noticed myself trying to compare me with others. I have found this phrase especially useful in times when I'm feeling a little down on myself or "lacking" in some way as I compare myself unfavorably to others.

A Dog Barks, An Ego Compares

We've talked about the nature of the Ego in previous posts. So- just to review- I do not see the Ego as some sort of negative or evil aspect of our nature that must be eliminated or overcome. To the contrary, it is something to be grateful for, to appreciate, but at the same time to lead and manage, not to be lead or managed by. Among the many useful aspects of the Ego is that it is constantly comparing- measuring how it is different from others, how it stacks up against the competition. In fact the Ego is the very essence of differentiation. It is the layer of consciousness just over the unified field of consciousness that unifies us all. It is the layer of consciousness that gives us a sense of separateness from all others, a sense of "self". We'll leave the intriguing topic of the Layers of Life for another post- hopefully soon I'll take that one on as it is fascinating.

So- a snake slithers, a dark barks, a cat meows, and an ego compares. That's just the way it is, and you might as well accept it (and be grateful for it too). Since you have an Ego- guess what? You compare! Of course you already know this all too well.

From a very young age we start comparing:

· My one year old quickly sizes up two pieces of banana on her tray and takes the biggest piece first.
· My four year old sees his older brothers getting more ice cream than he got and the world is out of balance until he gets more.
· My eight year old Cub Scout is concerned that a friend in the scout pack has earned more awards than he has so far and they both entered the pack within a few weeks of each other- so he's behind!

By the time we're teenagers our comparing muscles are really getting worked out:

· She is more popular than me
· He is stronger and more athletic than me
· I am smarter than they are
· They have cooler clothes than I do
· He likes me better than her.
· I'm 2nd chair in the orchestra and 1st chair is younger than me- but obviously has no social life because they must spend all their spare time practicing. So really, I'm better than she is because I'm more well rounded. But still, I should be 1st chair!

By the time we're adults, we're certified masters:

· I make more money than he does
· I have a better education than she does
· They have a nicer house than I do
· He drives a nicer car than I do
· My political views are more enlightened than theirs
· My favorite sports team is better than yours
· I am more honest than he is- he'll eventually get what's coming to him!
· My kids are better/worse behaved than their kids.
· Their house is always cleaner than mine.

While we're comparing, I've never met anyone who doesn't have the natural ability of comparing in spades- we're all pros at it by now- but I just might be a little better at it than you!

The Problem is Not Comparing, but Comparing to Whom
Now sometimes our comparing Ego will focus on how we have it better than others, but much more often, it tends to focus on how others have it better than us. Comparing yourself to others is actually one of the best things you can do to bring a sense of gratitude, peace and happiness into your life. So why do we so often feel down and out when we get our comparison game on?

The reason is the same as all "Ego problems"- we don't lead/manage the Ego, but let it manage/lead us. If left "unmanaged", the Ego will tend to focus on how others have it better and how we aren't stacking up in some way. We start believing the thought "He or she has it better than me" and it's not long before our feelings are sinking down into the low frequencies of guilt, envy, low self image and eventually depression. What's actually happening is that our feelings are giving us a warning sign that we're believing thoughts that aren't true. Once again that's a whole other topic for a later post (the connection between thoughts and feelings).

If we would use our comparing skills to actually compare ourselves to ALL others, we could really use this strength we all have of comparing to boost our spirits instead of lower them. The problem is that we rarely compare ourselves to ALL others, but only to a select few others that we perceive have it better than us in some way.

The Missing Tile Syndrome

If you look at a large mural made out of mosaic tiles where a few of the tiles have fallen out, your eyes will be automatically drawn to the holes or missing tiles. There may be thousands of tiles in their proper place, but we focus on the few that are missing. That's just the nature of the eye/brain connection- which is part of the domain of the Ego.

Just like the missing tiles, the Ego will focus not on what we do have, but on what is "missing". Understand that this is what the Ego does naturally. Unless we manage it better, we'll end up spending too much time in the lower frequencies of life. This is where the phrase "Better than most, not as good as some" is particularly useful. Because it reminds us that when we compare ourselves to ALL others- we really do have it "Better than most" even if there might be some that we think have it better.

Better Than Most

Think about it. Just the mere fact that we live in the 21st century with all the amazing modern conveniences of life makes it so that no matter how bad we may believe we have it, we have it "better than most" other humans that have ever lived on the planet. Even of the billions of people sharing the planet physically at this time, we probably have it much better than 95% of them. The fact that I am lucky enough to live in America- which represents about 5% of the world's current population (and that percentage is shrinking), in my mind makes me "better than most". Of course for any non-American readers this is not meant to be a slight against your country- just an appreciation of mine.

Here are just a few things that comparatively put me in the top 10% of the world today and probably the top 1% of ALL PEOPLE that have ever lived on this earth:

· I have a refrigerator and pantry full of food and can restock it at will by driving in my car for less than 5 minutes to a Grocery store full of so many options it would boggle the mind of 99% of ALL others.
· I don't have to worry about all sorts of contagious diseases that ended the lives of countless millions of ALL others. I get to instead deal with little things like high cholesterol and trying to lose the extra layer of fat around the belly.
· I have a closet full of clothes and shoes- most of which I never wear.
· I have a computer on which I am writing this blog and something called the "internet" to post it on to make my voice accessible to millions and millions of people (potentially). By the way, here's a plug to help me make it accessible to more people by subscribing to this blog and emailing the link to family and friends that you think would benefit from reading it.

I could go on and on. But you get the point.

Not As Good As Some

Noticing that some may have it better than you in some facet of life is another important part of the equation. Realizing that you do have it "better than most" doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement and it can be inspiring (if you let it) to see others around you that you want to emulate. Of course, we have to be really careful with the "not as good as some" part because, we can easily forget the "better than most" part and focus only on the "not as good as some". The real problem is that we only think that someone else has it better than us- but the truth is WE CAN NEVER REALLY KNOW! We can't possibly know all the challenges, struggles and demons that another person has to deal with. What we are comparing ourselves unfavorably to is always an incomplete picture and often an illusion.

Self Comparison and Guilt

Here's where this concept really gets interesting. Not only does our Ego constantly compare us to others, it also compares us to us. It compares us as we currently are to us as we "could be" or "should be". So many of us walk around with all sorts of guilt over past mistakes and shortcomings or to an image of how we should be and aren't or how we should have been but weren't.

A friend of mine who is going through a divorce at the time of this writing, confided in me that he is plagued by feelings of guilt because now that his wife has left him, he can go back into the past and see all sorts of things he "could have done differently, and then maybe she would still want to be with me." We can all do that (and we all do it). We look back and think "if I had only done this or that, then things would be better!"

Here's what I shared with him in an email:

"As for your feelings of guilt- I would advise extreme caution there. Guilt has a positive role to play in our lives- no doubt- when it is the type that leads to repentance and positive change. But unfortunately that proper kind of guilt is rare.

Proper guilt is a supportive, encouraging voice from within you saying "you're better than that behavior and you know it- let's fix that and get on with all your great potential!"

Improper guilt is the unsupportive, berating voice from "without" you (even though it is experienced as a thought within you) saying "You're a failure, you deserve everything bad that is happening to you, you'll always have to live with this failure, look how bad you messed up! What a phony you are! Why even try?"

So, could you have done things better than you did? Of course- we all could have done things better than we did. We also could have done them much worse than we did. To go back to the "better than most, not as good as some" phrase- most of the time we choose courses of action that are "better than most" other possible courses of action we could have taken, but maybe "not as good as some". That's life. And a supportive internal voice (our true voice) knows that we're choosing actions that are better than most, but still could be improved. We're in the 95% + percentile 95% + of the time and that's an "A" in life. The false "external" voice only focuses on the "not as good as..." side in a negative, demeaning manner. The way to tell the difference as to which voice you are giving your attention to and believing is how you feel. If you feel depressed or discouraged or unworthy it's the wrong one. If you feel supported, loved and inspired to improve while still feeling grateful, that's the right one. "

I hope this helps you in some way. As you think of all your blessings, remember when you ask yourself how you're doing, the right answer is "Better than most, not as good as some" and that is good, in fact it's GREAT!

Author's Bio: 

John Groberg writes on a wide variety of topics related to personal and spiritual growth. His slogan is Grow. By Choice™. His articles draw out principles of personal and spiritual growth common to the world’s ancient wisdom and spiritual texts as well as many of the great philosophers, poets, and writers of ancient and modern times. These principles are then put to the test in his own life with an emphasis on simple, sustainable practices we can apply in our daily lives to more effectively deal with the stresses and struggles of modern life and to more fully realize the benefits of deliberate growth. John developed a model called the Divine-Align-Shine model as a way of visually organizing the principles, practices and the overall process of personal and spiritual growth. His writings are cataloged and organized on his website, johngroberg.com where contact information is available.