Monthly Archives: March 2015

When you compare yourself to others

There is a line from the poem Desiderata that I find myself quoting quite often to founders of small innovative businesses.

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

DesiderataBut like most quotes that sound worthy, I like to dig deeper to the algorithm beneath.  My starting point for this was the Johari Window  a tool for gathering insight about yourself and your  relationships.    But I have tweaked it a bit to specifically deal with making comparisons.

Information about you

I would assert that there is three types of information about you that friends, colleagues, strangers may come across.  Basically:

  1. The Good stuff – eg you are a skilled cartoonist
  2. The Bad stuff – eg. you were once charged for being in a drunken brawl.
  3. The indifferent stuff – Information about you that is neither good nor bad eg. you prefer spaghetti bolognaise to spaghetti carbonara.

There is also three levels of intimacy of information about you.

  1. The Public stuff – Everybody can discover it .  eg. You live in Melbourne.
  2. The Private stuff – Only people close to you know – eg. You have a sensational pair of leopard skin pyjamas.
  3. The Secret stuff –  Only you know this. eg. You once saw  a  car being robbed,  but didn’t intervene or tell anyone.


  Secret Private Public
Good eg.  You have a sensational pair of leopard skin pyjamas  eg. Skilled Cartoonist
Indifferent eg. you prefer spaghetti bolognaise  eg. You live in Melbourne.
Bad  eg. You once saw  a  car being robbed,  but didn’t intervene or tell anyone.  eg. You were conce charged for being in a Drunken Brawl

Now we are generally pretty happy for the good stuff to be public, in fact most artists employ publicists, to get the good word out and to make sure the message is right.  Conversely, we try to keep the bad stuff secret.

The problem is of course, when we compare ourselves to others, we are brutally unfair.  You see most of what we know about others is the public stuff, and occasionally the private stuff.  And as we had just seen, this is much more like to be the good stuff.  However when we compare ourselves, we compare the complete picture of who we are, including very much our weaknesses and failings.  This of course leads to misplaced feelings of despair, jealousy, failure etc.

On occasion we also witness bad stuff hat would normally be private or secret about others.  This then leads to us feeling superior and vain.

We are terrible and childish in the way we do it, but once you realise whats actually happening, it can ease the pain and make us a bit more humble.

The next paragraph is Desiderata helps me keep perspective.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.