The Problem of Comparison When Living "Differently"
It can be easy to judge oneself or others when it comes to choosing a minimalist lifestyle.
We’ve talked about many different aspects of living a “simple” life. We’ve talked minimalism. We’ve talked about decluttering our wardrobe. We’ve talked about diet and health. We’ve talked about homeschooling. None of the things we’ve talked about on this blog are absolute requirements for living simply. They are suggested ways to pursue simplicity in our own life because everyone has their own opinions on being simple. Naturally, in conversations like this, though, it can become easy to begin to compare ourselves to others.
Comparison has two sides: on one side, you may judge yourself for not living up to your own expectations of what living a simple life should be like, and on the other side you may be judging others for not choosing to live the way you do. This second part can be difficult because the idea of living a simple life is often rooted in a conviction of personal and corporate well-being, but then again, most beliefs are. Perhaps you know someone whose life seems perfect. If this is about living simply, perhaps it seems like they’re doing everything right in their pursuit of living a simple life, and you could never achieve their height of minimalism.
Personally, as my family has begun to make decisions towards living a more simple life, it’s become more and more difficult not to compare ourselves to others. In one sense, it’s sometimes difficult to not feel like others are judging us for choosing to be Vegan, for example, or for choosing to build a tiny house in a school bus. Both of those aspects of our life seem a bit controversial and non-traditional. They may seem like risky decisions to some people, so risky that the risk shouldn’t be taken. A defense posture towards the feeling that others may not accept the decisions you’re making in life is to begin to compare yourselves to them and point out all the ways they’re doing things wrong.
I don’t have a perfect solution to keep from comparing yourself to others. At times it feels like comparison can be a good thing if you’re working to achieve something in your life that you see another person doing really well, but I think the difference is in whether or not the comparison is rooted in judgment. I read blogs about minimalism and veganism and tiny living in order to learn about these things. If I find someone who’s doing minimalism really well, I’m going to look at their life and consider aspects of it that I want to emulate. Is this kind of comparison bad?
Living differently from your friends and family can be difficult, and the solution isn’t to break ties with those who live differently from you and only be in relationship with people who live like you do. No one chooses to live exactly the same life. You will have minimalist friends and maximalist friends. Vegan friends and Paleo friends. Friends who homeschool and friends who don’t. Stay-at-home mom friends and working mom friends. In my opinion, we all have something to learn from each other. In general, my desire is for others to value my difference from them, and in the same way I must also value their difference from me. Most of the time all of us make decisions that are rooted in some kind of conviction, whether for us personally or for our families or for the world. It doesn’t matter who you are.
How do we approach each other's differences with an open mind? How do we learn from the way others are living, whether or not they are choosing to live a “simple” life?
We’d love to hear from you.