I was a bit shocked to hear that men compare themselves to other men. Not because it’s unheard of, but because it had just never occurred to me. As a woman, I often get caught up in the comparison game… but men? Weren’t they born with natural confidence?
The realization first came to me while speaking with a coworker of mine about “Comparison: Ladies Edition.” I was ready to dismiss him as a source, because I didn’t think he would understand the throes of despair women face, when (to my surprise) he chided me. “You don’t honestly think that comparison is a just woman thing. I compare myself with other guys daily.” What?!
He explained that while women are usually more body focused, men are more apt to compare things like intellect, status, stage of life and competency. Here’s what that looks like spelt out…
Intellect: “Look how smart I am.”
Let’s be real. Men like to be right. Whether it’s cars, sports, finances or music, it feels good for a man to be “in-the-know.” Taking the humble posture is hard… at least among peers. When faced with someone whose opinion is better or stronger than his own, a man may fall into Fight or Flight mode. He may back off in conversation, or resort to belittling, berating or making fun of his “opponent” to even the playing field.
Status or Stage of Life: “Look what I have.”
Men (most men) enjoy being the breadwinner. They strive to be the guy with the nice house, nice car, nice property and nice looking wife. The image of Mufasa surveying his land on Pride Rock comes to mind. It’s this idea of, “Look at what I have and what I can provide!”
This is challenging for those who feel behind their peers: financially, romantically or even in regards to building a family. There’s a temptation to look at those near in age and judge how far along, or how well off they are in comparison to you; for better or worse.
Competency:”Look what I can do.”
For men it often comes down to what you can do, and how well you can do it. It’s easy for a guy to find his identity in what he does, because it gives him a sense of worth and value. Not much feels better than knowing he can do something well.
The downside with finding value in your competency is, chances are, you’re not always going to be the very best at what you do. When a guy hears someone else being complimented at the thing he’s good at, it’s like a check to his pride. It can be an identity crisis. “If he’s the best (insert ability here), who am I?”
How do you turn it around?
Ask for the attaboy. Girls need reassurance. Guys need affirmation and appreciation. With men, an attaboy goes a long, long way. Maybe the people in your life aren’t giving you the affirmation that you need. Maybe it’s time to lay down your man-pride and let them know that you need it.
Understand that you’re not them. Just because someone is successful in an area, it doesn’t mean you will be. Fact of life. Identifying who you are and understanding your strengths compared to others will help ease the pangs of comparison. The temptation to be like someone else may be there, but you need to mature in managing those feelings. There must be a balance between simply being who you are and desiring to improve. Lastly…
Suck it up, bro. Someone is always gonna be better, further, smarter, richer. Expect that. You can’t let it ruin your day, your self esteem or most importantly, your life.
That being said… atta boy. You can do it.