The more we confront each other, the more we deny ourselves. To make a comparison we must start from a common point, generalize, and every act of generalization always implies an impoverishment of individuality. The act of comparing is, par excellence, a negation of the richness of uniqueness. Confronting others is denying oneself.
But despite this, we confront each other. We compare ourselves continuously because we have grown up in a competitive society in which the person is not worth what he is, but in relation to others. We do not seek our value within ourselves, but outside, comparing ourselves to others. And we accept - with greater or lesser reluctance - the yardstick that society generously offers us.
Then it is when we fall into the death trap that the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard had glimpsed in his book “Edifying Discourses in Diverse Spirits” at the beginning of the XNUMXth century: confrontation oppresses us and makes us deeply unhappy.
Confrontation as a source of vain worries and artificial needs
"Worldly concern always tries to lead the human being towards the petty restlessness of comparisons, away from the haughty calm of simple thoughts [...] A human being compares himself to others, one generation compares himself to another, and so we go accumulating the burden of comparisons that overwhelms the person.
“Meanwhile the naivety and the hustle and bustle increase, and in each generation there are more and more people who work as lifelong slaves in the underground zone of confrontation. Just as miners never see the light of day, these people never see the light: those first thoughts, simple and happy about how glorious a human being is. And in the high regions of confrontation, smiling vanity plays falsely by deceiving the merry ones so that they do not receive any impression of those haughty, simple first thoughts ”.
Kierkegaard thought that comparing ourselves to others made us fall into the web of dissatisfaction, distancing us from our essence and preventing us from being authentic. To explain it he resorted to a simile.
A bird gets food and builds a nest for shelter. That's all he needs to live and he does it naturally, without worrying. He could live happily. Until the day he compares himself to a "richer bird". Then he starts worrying about building a bigger nest and looking for more food, even if he doesn't need it. At that precise moment, the natural gives way to the artificial and satisfaction becomes dissatisfaction. A happy life turns into a miserable life.
The same thing happens to people. Kierkegaard was convinced that generally it is not our real needs that cause us worry, anxiety and unhappiness, but the constant confrontation, which also leads us to desire and consume much more than we need.
"The comparison generates the worry about earning a living, but the worry about earning a living is not a real and urgent need of today, but the idea of a future need [...] It does not reflect a real need but an imaginary need" .
Comparisons create needs that we did not originally have. In this regard, Zygmunt Bauman warned us of this danger in a society dominated by social networks: "the driving force behind the behavior is no longer the more or less realistic desire to maintain the same level as the neighbors, but the nebulous idea up to the exaggeration of reaching the level of celebrities. "
In practice, the longer the yardstick, the more disappointed we will get out of it and the more frustrated we will feel. This will lead us to go on a wild ride in an attempt to meet the new "needs" that should make us happy, but actually end up consuming our lives with the flame of permanent dissatisfaction.
Kierkegaard had already said: “the more one compares, the more indolent and miserable a person's life becomes […] Confrontation can lead man to total discouragement because whoever compares himself must admit to himself that he is behind many others”.
How to escape the need to confront others?
The solution is to realize that comparing yourself to others is not a problem but a symptom. The symptom that we don't love, like or value ourselves enough. To eliminate that symptom we must go beyond comparison.
“The person who goes beyond confrontation can focus on relating to himself as a unique individual,” wrote Kierkegaard. When you give up the need to compare yourself to others, to continually look outside to find points of reference with which to estimate your worth, you can begin to look within.
By connecting with our essence we are able to understand what we really need and what we want. Authentic needs and desires, which come from ourselves. Not those who dictate comparisons.
In this process of self-acceptance, we also begin to discover, appreciate, and value ourselves for who we are. We start thinking about how we want to live and what changes would make us truly happy. And this is an act of reaffirmation and personal freedom.