The concept of compare & despair is hardly new. Yet there is much opportunity within that phrase for observation and transformation.
It seems nearly impossible NOT to compare ourselves with others. Competition is built into our culture–from grades in school, to sports, to income and material possessions. We speak of someone's net worth in terms of dollars–a telling commentary on our way of life.
Our tendency is to look to those individuals who seems to have more of what we feel we lack–money, love, success, close friends or family etc. Rarely do we compare ourselves with those who have less than we do of any or all of the above.
So how can we use this notion of compare and not have it lead to despair?
I think it is essential to first recognize that each and every human being is a unique presence in the universe. There are no other beings in this universe [or in any conceivable multiuniverse for that matter] identical to us. Even identical twins with identical DNA are different–their brains are not wired exactly like their twin.
This sense of being special, of being on a unique path through this lifetime should help us navigate past the negative aspects of comparison–envy, anger, frustration, depression, a feeling of giving up or worse, of ending this gift of life entirely.
If we recognize that we are spiritual beings having a human experience we can back away from self-pity, stop asking God/the Universe/ Ein Sof etc. "why me?" An instead ask, "why not me?"
Adopting an attitude of gratitude for what we have is a choice. Knowing that change and transformation are possible in the next moment is a possible. Seeing that even suffering offers opportunities for healing ourselves and others may make the journey more serene.
Buddhism teaches that suffering should not be seen as punishment. It can lead us to become more compassionate towards the suffering of others. But we should not forget to show this compassion to ourselves.
If others give us hope, if others demonstrate their ability to overcome adversity, if others exemplify love and caring in the face of their own tragedies, if others give us ideas about how to live better more fulfilling lives, if others teach us to honor our journey and the spark of divinity within each of us, than comparison need not lead to despair.
It can be a tool for healing.