Education Opinion

Stop Comparing Yourself: Celebrate and Develop Who You Are

By Jill Berkowicz & Ann Myers — July 19, 2015 3 min read
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“Why compare yourself with others? No one in the entire world can do a better job of being you than you.” - Unknown

Star athletes and movie stars not only receive huge salaries, they are the recipients of the adoration of thousands of fans. They are followed on social media, photographed shopping by the paparazzi, and discussed on TV shows. Our society encourages envy and disproportionality, elevating one or another of us above the others. It is as if we had a society where idol making was a big business. For each of us it is different. For some, meeting a movie star renders us speechless. For others, meeting an athlete we admire does the same. They have clothing lines and endorse products of all sorts; we buy them.

In education, are we any different? There are authors and speakers who we read or hear and follow. We do the same as others do with athletes and movie stars. Maybe they developed a method, or synthesized a way of thinking that resonates with us. They, like the athletes and movie stars, become famous in our field and become our stars. We use their language and emulate them.

Who is it they are being compared to that makes them, well, elevated? When we think like that, the underlying feeling is a comparison of them and us. Yes there are people who can run faster, act better, sing and dance better than we. There are people who know more, can teach more effectively, connect with children more easily, respond to parents with greater success, know more about and are more facile with technology, of course. All are comparisons and essentially entering this arena is disempowering and we do it to ourselves! Have we been programmed to live or to want someone else’s life?

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma- which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. Steve Jobs

The process of uncovering and remaining our authentic selves is a personal one. It will be lonely. The journey inward can be an uncomfortable one especially when it takes us into new territory, to an unexpected place. Changing the habit from comparison to others, to personal growth and confidence in our own capacities, changes how we feel about ourselves and how others feel about us. It takes courage.

So much professional development is focused on skills and methods and so much is necessary to learn and do. Unless we grow as confident, open hearted, resilient humans, the skills and methods we learn and implement will remain as work to be done. In A Hidden Wholeness, Parker Palmer writes:

...everytime we get in touch with the truth source we carry within, there is net moral gain for all concerned. Even if we fail to follow its guidance fully, we are nudged a bit further in that direction. And the next time we are conflicted between inner truth and outer reality, it becomes harder to forget or deny that we have an inner teacher who wants to lay a claim on our lives (Palmer, p. 19).

We can find wisdom and knowledge within that speaks to who we are and how we act. How we revere others must not be an act of comparison, but one of celebrating their uniqueness and, therefore, our own. If we can do that, then...and maybe only then...can we bring that to our students. Regardless of how we try to fit them into molds of someone else or of each other, they defy us with their individuality. It is exactly what we need them to do. And maybe that can come as our motivation. We need to allow each of them to share some things in common while being who they are at their core, unique and beautiful. The capacity to do that comes from a willingness to recognize and trust the inner voice we each hold within. Yet, we join those who read and seek the wisdom of others. How each of us travels that journey may be distinctively ours, but that each of us must is what Jobs and Palmer talk about. That journey is essential to successful leadership and lives.

Palmer, Parker J. (2004). A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life. San Francisco: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

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The opinions expressed in Leadership 360 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.