Why Do We Compare Ourselves?

“Mirror, mirror on the wall…who is the fairest of them all?”

Just like the queen, you may be wondering, “Am I doing better than them?” “Them” could refer to your classmates, playmates, family etc! Envy, jealousy…who hasn’t had to deal with these emotions before? We all have at times felt lousy because someone else is better.

Perhaps this is how you feel when facing your exams or tests. When you sit for your Spelling Test, your main concern is not so much whether you have truly mastered the vocabulary words but you are engrossed in the competition!

This is your “secret desire”, or not so secret. While teaching in a previous tuition centre, I have seen students trying to spot that single mistake in order to make their friends’ performance as “lousy” as theirs.

Why do we compare ourselves with others constantly?

Why do we look in the mirror and hope against all odds that we are the best, after everything finishes?

“No one understands me”

On one occasion, a student of mine commented to me that she was looking for an equal in class, someone she could spar with. Someone that was as knowledgeable and willing to grow alongside her.

The desire to compete is not always rooted in selfishness, though it might be. It is also rooted in our feelings of “alone-ness”. We are feeling like no one understands how it feels like to try and fail, to reach out and yet not reach our goals.

Thus, to avoid feeling our misery, we try to compare ourselves with someone worse-off than us, in order to feel less lonely.

No more shame

But, what if we all needed each other in order to become a better student and learner? Imagine a classroom where you do not have to feel ashamed of failure because there was no “you against them”? No need to try to hide your mistakes either. You can truly focus on learning itself.

  • Where you can genuinely praise someone else when they do well, and also receive the same applause from your friends?
  • What if this mirror of comparison is simply cursing us, such that we do not see the full truth?
  • What is the fuller picture we need to see?

You and I and everyone else – when we work together – we are better together. We look better together in that mirror than in separate mirrors. The conducive classroom / online space that I envision is one in which the teacher partners with all the other students, hand in hand, towards the shared goal of English mastery. Let us break down the us versus them mentality. It’s only in discussion, dialogue and sharing that learning truly takes place. In fact, my own pedagogy towards learning is built on this foundation: everyone of us has a piece of the puzzle.

Teamwork does make the dream work. Put away the comparison mirror for a “We-fie” instead!

This article was written by Teacher Ben from Learner Net.

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about the author
Teacher Benedict has an honors in English Literature and major in Behavioral Studies from Monash University. He serves as Assistant Supervisor at a Preparatory school and teaches Teachers in pedagogy and focuses mainly in the English Language. He teaches both MOE curriculum and the IELTS exam system.

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