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When I was in the first grade, we had spelling quizzes.

Bird. Dog. Chair. Red. Blue. Hand. Stop.

The teacher would say the word and then you would think really hard about how to spell it and then write it on the line provided. I loved it.

There was a problem though. I love it not because I wanted to learn, but I wanted to get the answer right so I could receive my gold star.

Although getting that gold star wasn’t enough either.

Even at a young age, my desire to know how I compared with others was strong.

You see, the teacher had a poster on the door that had everyone’s name on it.

If you spelled all of the quiz words correctly you would receive a gold star next to your name for that week.

  • I didn’t care about that gold star because I wanted to be a great speller.

  • I didn’t care about that gold star because I wanted to give my best effort.

  • I didn’t care about that gold star because I cared about my education.

I wanted to know where I stood in comparison with the other kids in the class.

I wanted to look up at that poster and see if I had more gold stars than you did.

Who am I smarter than?

Who am I better than?

In the first grade.

I wish I could say I grew out of that mindset when I hit second grade.


I have struggled with the desire to compare myself to others my entire life.

Can you RELATE to that?

I can use anything as a comparison tool:

Money. Social Media status. Travel locations. Car. Apartment/Home. Attractiveness. Attractiveness of significant other.

One thing is consistent with comparing myself to others: It leads me to feel like I am not doing enough. I am not working hard enough. I am not achieving enough.

What I am really feeling at the core of those statements: “I am not enough.”

It has been said that: Comparison is the thief of joy.

I whole-heartedly believe that.

When I received my DUI back in January 2008 and began attending AA meetings, one of the greatest pieces of advice I was ever given was “Do not compare; always relate.”

It would have been easy for me to look at the other people in the meeting and compare myself to them.

I could compare based on age, clothing, upbringing, background, stories with alcohol, how they look, where they are from, etc. I could have found differences all day long.

But because of that advice, I started to relate to people.

  • I could relate to the anxiety they felt.

  • I could relate to the feelings of not feeling good enough.

  • I could relate to the pain they experienced.

  • I could relate to the fear and guilt and doubts and uncertainty.

As I related to others, I developed deeper connections with people. I learned to love in a new way. I learned to be joyous in a new way.

Relating to others is a practice I still focus on today. I don’t want to seek differences through comparison; I want to find similarities through relating.

I don’t want the gold star just so I can see where I stand in the world.

I want to stand next to you, with you, for each other.

I don’t want to compare.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

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