I feel lesser than a lot of men. Sometimes it’s their hair, their accent, or the well-treated leather bag they carry. Other times it’s the tailored suit, their chiseled jaw, or sleeve-popping biceps. The reasons are many, and the reprieves are few. If this sounds familiar to you, you know how agonizing it can be. As the adage goes, comparison is the thief of joy. And how easy it is to be stolen from.

How can we protect ourselves from this self-esteem crushing, soul-sucking act of comparison? It’s not easy, and there will be times where we’re still going to feel it, but the answer lies in our thoughts. That sounds like typical self-help garbage, but what if it was true? Perspective is everything. It shapes our reality and is a large deciding factor in our own happiness.

There is no one universal truth, just fragments of it that each of us holds. There are as many versions of us in the world as there are people who have seen us, talked to us, passed us on the bus or on the street. Every time somebody gives us a once over in the mall, another version of us is born. Is it possible that the fragment we hold is not the most accurate one?

I’d like to share an anecdote. I’ve recently went through a particularly stressful and emotionally taxing period in my life, and I didn’t check the scale often. Despite not eating much, I discovered that I now weigh the most I’ve weighed in 5 years. I’m still not sure how, but I checked three different scales. The theory that I had gotten fat was further proven by some old clothes that used to fit me that are now way too tight. The thought that I am fat again has been eating me up. But then something interesting happened that shifted my perspective.

I met someone new and they were working towards living a healthier life. They, too, had gone through a rough patch, and came out of it with extra weight. My new friend was telling me about his struggles, and how he wishes he was more muscular like me. Here I was thinking that I was the furthest thing from muscular, and I have this guy telling me that he wishes he was more like me. This doesn’t mean that I was imagining the ill-fitting clothes or the numbers on the scale. It means that the way I perceived myself wasn’t accurate.

We all have something about us that somebody else wishes they could have. It could be a physical trait, or it could be something about our perceived character that is admirable. I can promise you that somebody has looked at you and thought something like, “Man, if only I had is smile”, or, “I wish I was as tall as him,” or, “I wish I could grow a full beard like that guy.” The different options are endless. And the people thinking these good things about you have somebody looking at them the same way. We exist in a chain of insecurity. I am currently allowing the chain to continue with how awesome Ryan Reynolds is, but I have more control than I think.

I don’t think that what I’m writing here will banish anybody’s insecurity, but I do hope that it helps. Writing it has helped solidify the knowledge for me, but I still struggle. And in some ways it can help us, if we keep our thoughts in line. Like a heavy weight on a bar, it can crush us or make us grow. The struggle to be better than we are, to become better men, is a good one. Keep your form, and strive on.