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Can't stop placing people's lives on microscope slides so you can see who's doing better? Your obsessron with comparing achievements cou d be hurting your future. By Lauren Farrow

'm pretty happy with my career, my friends and my love life. But when I look at Natalie Portman, I feel like hitting the bottle. The girl was in the cult classic
The Professional at13, won a Golden

projects, jobs and lives, and, while this is inspiring, we can't help but compare ourselves. At least I can't."


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For Arielle, her tendency to compare herself with others acts as a driving force

in her life. She explains, "lt gives me the

Globe at 24, and even with a shaved head manages to look better than I ever have. Rationally, I realise l'm being ridiculous.

The modern human, it seems, has created

don't want her life. For, all I know, she

could smell like mothballs or feet. Still, Natalie induces bouts of selfloathing. I mean, what have I achieved in comparison? A quick survey of my friends proved it's not just me who's prone to judging my life's achievements (and failures) against someone else's.

advanced torture devices to exacerbate our comparison complex. Unlike previous generations, we have to contend with airbrushing, cosmetic surgery, intense
career competition and, of course,

motivation to achieve the things I want to accomplish. Without it, I might never leave the couch. l'd be just like the mum in [1993 film] What's Eating Gilbert Grape. You'd need a damn
crane to get me out of the house." Jennifer, 33, reveals that rating her life against other people's has been the

pretty young things like Ms Portman. But, before we start railing against
the system, Sydney psychologist Elisabeth Shaw says we should first take a deep breath - because it's not all bad news. Our tendency to "A-B" things can play a role
in helping us understand where we fit in. From the age of three, Shaw explains,

motivator that pushed her to make several important decisions. "When [my friends and l] left school, I was the first to move ln with my boyfriend. Five years later, the relationship died and I had nothing to show for it. My friends all had degrees and careers. I felt like I had fallen behind ... so I went out and
enrolled in university the next day." Shaw warns, however, that when we can't manage our tendency to measure up in a positive way, it can
be self-defeating and damaging. A

From what I can gather, just about everyone suffers from this "comparison complex". We can't help but measure ourselves against our closest friends, acquaintances and even strangers, comparing everything from weight,
careers and salaries, to our love lives,

we become conscious of comparisons. We are likened to our parents, and learn standards of good and bad. By the time we're in our twenties, this process is what enables us to evaluate our life. "We all compare ourselves to others when we lose something or someone valuable to us, whether it be missing out on a job or a relationship. Often, we do this for a short period of time; [it's] a kind of review of how we stack up

friendships and social status. "l think our generation has an overachievers complex," says 24-year-old Arielle. "We're constantly inundated

negatively charged comparison complex, coupled with low self-esteem, can actually keep you from moving forward. "Sometimes, people are so alert

with media about everyone's amazing

and re-establish our self-perception."

to being seen badly lby others] that they find it irresistible to collect examples of


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