Compare Yourself To Others The Right Way

The how and why of understanding yourself better using your dream journal (Part 5/7)

Don’t compare yourself to others.

Be yourself.

Compare yourself to yourself.

These ideas find their way into all kinds of creative expressions.

There’s a big reason it’s on so many minds.

Creators are creative people. Each has a spark or many sparks in them demanding release. People who create tend have a driving creative impulse.

If their creation isn’t original, it’s derivative. Every creation is somewhat derivative, but some works borrow more than others.

If it’s not creative, and it’s not derivative, it’s accidental.

Creative accidents are products of luck. Derivatives are the result of copying. Both are something of a lower order than a mostly original creation. Only making something original gives you both prestige and the thrill of creating; The excitement and promise of the birth of a creation!

Nothing else is really worth a damn to the creator or the audience. Creating requires inspirational kindling, a spark, and focus.

Guts, too.

Sure, there are plenty of arguments against this. For support, they lean on all kinds of facts like the amount of money you make, the good that you do, and so on.

Despite the various degrees of truth to the arguments, the fact remains that when all of these things coincide, you feel like you’ve won the lottery.

How to get this great feeling

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls this great feeling “flow” in his self-help masterpiece.

To reach flow, one needs to concentrate on the nascent creation, not figuratively look over your shoulder, and not worry about what others are doing.

In other words, be yourself, and don’t compare yourself to others.

If you’re going to compare yourself, compare yourself to yourself.

Easier said than done.

This conflict between being original and derivative weighs heavily on creators’ heads.

If a creative person is busy looking over their shoulder at what someone else has done, they’re not going to make anything original. They can’t. Copying someone else’s work comes with too heavy of a hand.

At the same time, other artists working in the same field can be inspirational. Who better to appreciate their talent? They teach about their art in so many ways. Of course, you want to imitate them somewhat. Imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery.

If you only can find the right model, you can avoid a lot the whole experimentation process and finding out what doesn’t work.


Some savvy people set up comparisons between others. They make things into a competition. They look at metrics. It motivates in the right kind of situation among the right kind of people. It makes things into a game.

Rather, it can. It doesn’t do this automatically. It’s all in how one approaches it.

It’s overdone in a lot of areas. It’s often misapplied

Sales teams do this. Who can sell the most? Their company will offer a prize or, sometimes, bragging rights.

Programs that gamify learning do this, like Busuu and Duolingo.

Sports do this when it can with individual standings and team standings.

None of these examples are straight art, up and up. Yet, they call for creative problem-solving approaches. These areas intersect in that way.

Nobody escapes the tyranny of these comparisons, not even our greatest talents.

Take a dozen artists who have made millions and millions of people happy among them. People who love them and/or their work will still find ways of comparing them.

Who has sold the most recordings?

Who has the wildest shows?

Who made the most money from merchandise sales?

Who was on pace to be who at what if only they had lived a little longer?

It’s part of being who we are. It’s fun and frustrating to think about all at the same time.

It’s fundamental. It’s goal-setting. Be the best.

However, when you’re goal-setting, you’ve got to ensure you’re setting the right goal. However, the endpoint of the goal doesn’t always get at what’s the most important aspects of life. When you can get at what really is most important, however, you can uncover value.

What are you supposed to do about this if you care about uncovering the truth and want to keep growing?

The best thing is to put it all in perspective.

Our objective mindset

Our objective, data-driven Western mindset dictates that we look at populations and metrics. You can gain truth from this by comparing yourself to others. When you do this, you can see how normal you are.

When we do this, we can even group this normality into deviations. For example, one standard deviation means that 68 percent of the values can be found within that range; two standard deviations mean about 95 percent of the values can be found within that range.

By the time you reach three standard deviations, your range will encompass 99.7 percent of the individual numbers in the set.

Depending on what’s being compared, sometimes it’s good to be normal. Other times it’s not.

You can see this clearly when you test someone, especially regarding multiple-choice tests.

You can look at pass rates. You can look at which questions people have trouble with, and so forth.

The whole problem is people will try to live in an environment with many factors.

The things you’re worried about can be the most unimportant, the most trivial.

That includes the people who designed the test. As they say in the military, “No plan survives contact with the enemy.”

Multiple-choice tests will not be able to check for learning on the most important facets of any subject.

When we compare, we need to be able to do it subjectively, though there’s no guarantee you’ll do this right.

Nevertheless, in the end, it could end up being just as or even more valid than an objective comparison like a multiple-choice test.

Comparisons and dream journals

No document will reveal more about the inner you than a dream journal.

Other things you write are written for other audiences. Your dream journal is written for you alone. If you’re recording whatever dreams come up when you have them, it’s without artifice, no editing involved.

One thing has to be understood in relation to another. There is no other way.

This man is taller than that man.

This person laughs six times an hour compared to that person who laughs, on average, twice.

And so on.

However, how can you understand how your mind works if you have no comparisons when it comes to dream journals?

Most people you know probably don’t keep a dream journal. Most of the ones who do aren’t going to let you read them. There’s too great of a chance they’ll be misunderstood.

Luckily for us, some people do put their dream journals online.

If you’re going to compare yourself to them, be sure to read several months’ worth of entries.

Dream journals on the Internet

Consider . There are literally journals from hundreds of anonymous users to read.

When you find a dream journal interesting, make a mental or actual note of five to ten things that generally hold about the journal about how the person’s mind works in a given space of time.

You can do this for any writing, but usually, professional writing has either an editor or an editing program standing between the writing and the reader. They offer an invisible hand guiding the prose. There’s also a difference in what a person presents in public and in private. A dream journal is private.

From reading these dream journals, you find that the dreamers aren’t usually not going to talk about what prompted the particular dream. They’re not going to dwell on any analysis. They’re not going to give away much personal information at all. Most of the dreams are elaborate.

On the other hand, not everyone has dreams like this. Only certain kinds of people will post their dreams on the internet.

It seems to be that people want to post elaborate dreams, too, the ones that are akin to hallucinations.

Few Internet dream journalers post slice-of-life dreams, for example.

They tend not to be simple either like you’re in a rowboat happily listening to a song.

Comparing your dreams from a similar period for someone else can tell you a lot about yourself and what makes you unique.

Neither you nor the other person is “wrong.” You have different lives. The goal is to consider yourself differently.

This post includes affiliate links for which we receive a small commission. 

For Further Reading:

Series: Understand Yourself Using Your Dream Journal 

Part 1 What You Know and Don’t Know – The Dream Recovery System 

Part 2 Keep An Actual Dream Journal – The Dream Recovery System 

Part 3 Encode Your Dreams If You Must – The Dream Recovery System 

Part 4 Stick With Dream Journaling – The Dream Recovery System  

Part 6 I Compare My Dream Journal – The Dream Recovery System 

Part 7 Compare Yourself to Yourself – The Dream Recovery System 


Other posts that may be of interest:

This is the best way to record your dreams.

How to harness the obscured power of faded dreams

There’s one big trick to making a sleep patch work

How to vaccinate yourself against psychosomatic illness


James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life. 


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