Filipinos and our toxic trait of comparison

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If you’re born in a typical Filipino home, chances are you’ve been compared to someone else at one point in your life. The most common comparisons would often come from our family and relatives.

Growing up, we are compared to our siblings, cousins, and friends regarding our grades, skills, awards, physique, and more.

Then when we reach adulthood, we are still compared with them — only this time, older family and relatives compare us regarding our educational attainment, perceived level of personal and professional success, marital status, and even having children.

The problem with this culture of comparison is the added pressure we incur throughout the years without really understanding the impact of these toxic traits on the development and growth of the person who’s often compared.

Soon, if we don’t correct this trait, we will also join in the mix, and we will start comparing ourselves with others, beginning another cycle.

The culture of ranking.

12345 comparison and ranking
Photo by Magda Ehlers on

Filipinos love ranks. We are so accustomed to comparing everyone with everyone else.

Think about when we were kindergarten students. We can’t even write our names, but our teachers would already compare us with our classmates on who can draw the straightest lines.

Then in elementary school, we were again compared with our classmates regarding subjects whose outputs are often determined by our parents’ direct involvement.

Once again, we are compared in high school to determine who is most appropriate to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, musicians, and more through our National Career Assessment Exams (NCAE).

In college, we compare ourselves with other students’ courses or board exam results to determine who will succeed, which is frequently inaccurate.

Then when we finally graduated and entered the workforce thinking that the culture of ranking ended in school, we are again compared with our peers through the annual performance review to determine who will get the promotion or salary raise.

Isn’t it exhausting? Isn’t it inequitable? Or are we so helpless in changing this culture of false meritocracy?

We are so accustomed to applying ranking throughout our lives that it even sipped into our personal lives.

Comparison, Social Media, and FOMO Culture.

person using a smartphone
Photo by cottonbro on

An adverse effect of comparison is how it affects our lives for the worse. Fueled by social media, comparison became accessible more than ever. With a scroll of our fingers, we can easily see everything that we lack.

Also, because of social media, we can see things and events that we are missing out on, how our family, friends, and peers are having the best days of their curated lives while we are at home feeling sorry for our underachievements.

We also compare ourselves with other people’s possessions, houses, cars, businesses, jobs, children, travel, and so many more to the point of exhaustion.

So we need to take a deeper look at ourselves and our lives and see how envy and jealousy are taking control of it.

Envy and jealousy always involve comparisons.

two people holding pineapple fruit on their palm
Photo by Maksim Goncharenok on

Envy and jealousy are two words that are often used interchangeably, but in reality, they have some distinctions.

First, envy is wanting something that someone already has, like success or possession. In contrast, jealousy is the sense that you will lose something you already have because of someone else, like affection or a job.

But the commonality between the two is that they involve comparing oneself to someone else.

One example is how people would usually compare themselves to others to ensure that everything is “fair” — that nobody has more than them. Many would often ask this question, “Bakit si kwan pinayagan…” or “Bakit si ano merong ganito…” and other variations. 

It is tiring that people think they are looking for fairness, but in reality, they are just afraid that others will be one step ahead of them.

A quote that I read a few years back describes how jealousy and envy propel comparisons. It came from Louis C. K., who said that “The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.”

Because of these comparisons, we often neglect or take for granted the things that we already have because we are so preoccupied with someone or something else.

So unless we finally find a way to avoid comparing ourselves with others, contentment is one step closer.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

According to Theodore Roosevelt, comparison is the thief of joy. This summarizes how our culture of comparison takes away the joy that we would have obtained if we only knew how to be content with what we have at the moment.

As we grow older, we soon realize that there are things that we can do better than others and some things that others will do better than us, and that’s normal.

We just need to know ourselves well enough to realize that our strengths can supplement another person’s weaknesses.

Strengths and weaknesses.

“Everybody is a genius. But if we judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Albert Einstein

When I was still in my old corporate office, we were obligated to take the Gallup Strengthsfinder, which aimed to determine our strengths and weaknesses.

At first, I thought we took that test to determine our weakness and to strengthen it. However, our managers advised us to focus on our strengths and let others complement our weaknesses.

I found it amazing that for a team to maximize its potential, it is vital to have people of varied abilities helping one another. 

Final Thought

If there is someone whom you can compare yourself with, it would be your past self. 

Always ask yourself, have you improved from who you were yesterday to be a step closer to who you want to be tomorrow?

Comparing our present self with our past self will show us how much we’ve grown and how things were different from what we had before.

Instead of comparisons, let us practice compassion. May we also include gratitude in our lives and see just how a change of perspective can change our lives. God bless!

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