Is Comparison Constructive?

Apples & Oranges - They Don't Compare

Apples and Oranges – They don’t compare cc Flickr Michael Johnson

A tendency to compare ourselves to others seems to be quite natural. We compare ourselves to our friends, to our teammates, we compare our children to their peers or their siblings and so on. While learning from others is a useful way to develop our understanding or make a decision, can it also reinforce unrealistically high or disappointingly low expectations?

I actually find it quite easy to avoid comparing my own children or my students to each other because I see them as completely unique and value their talents as precious to them.  I have incredible role models who inspire me to be better and examples all around of remarkable human beings. In each of these people, I can find qualities that I aspire to replicate.  Just as I see uniqueness in my own children and students, we are all unique too, each on a different journey, each with a different vision of what success is.

Should our goal be to compare ourselves less to others but more to our previous selves?  Am I better than yesterday? How can I be better tomorrow? Did I give myself an opportunity to think about what I did or didn’t do well or what I really want to be better at?

I have no doubt that this is the path to a better me.


  1. JMVarnerBooks

    And standardization, of course, enables more comparison by applying the same measure to a given population. The problem is that standardization often (always?) is reductionistic, favoring some things and discarding others.

    • rhonimcfarlane

      Agreed! Plus the focus is not on how you are developing as a learner but what you know at one specific point in time. It assumes one starting point and one end point, and I am still to meet two people who have the exact same knowledge and understanding despite being in the same system of education for the same amount of time.

      Thanks for joining in and pushing the conversation.

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