Looking back and comparing with others is often fruitless

We take stock of our lives, from time to time. As some milestone approaches -- a birthday, a new year -- we look back and assess ourselves.

It's good to ask ourselves, "How am I doing?" But it's sad when we use such times to compare ourselves to other people.

Some people compare in order to gloat. Both David Merrick and Gore Vidal have been quoted as saying, more or less, "It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail."

Some people compare in order to excuse themselves. They see other people's successes and say, "They got all the luck. I just can't catch a break." As if there were nothing they could do now to improve their place in life.

Some compare in order to beat themselves up. "Here I am, 30 years old, and look what other 30-year-olds have accomplished! I'm a failure."

I know very well an accomplished woman, keenly intelligent, who has influenced the lives of many for good -- but she has always felt like a failure because she had neither money nor a bachelor's degree.

Yet I know many women with wealth, with doctorates, who would regard her as the most fortunate of women and wish they had accomplished what she has.

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