Invariably all my teaching assignments have ended up as learning assignments for me. And this one was no exception to the rule. I was asked to give a guest-lecture to the MBA students of a B-School on Competitive Strengths With Reference to Game Theory. As we were toying with various examples and case studies I wrote this over-simplified example on the board. I have to decide whether I should choose Option A or Option B. I gave the pay-offs (the relative benefits or disadvantages in choosing an alternative) as below. Option A: I get Rs.1000; my rival and my competitor gets Rs. 900 Option B: I get Rs. 2000; my rival and my competitor gets Rs. 15,000 You know the answer very well? Right. (You need not tell anyone but be true to your own heart). Now read on. The entire class voted for Option A. In fact that is the predicted outcome. But what stunned me even more was the line of reasoning. A timid-looking girl stood up and explained her line of reasoning. “In Option A I get Rs.100 more than the competitor. But in Option B my competitor gets Rs.13, 000 more than me. Naturally Option A is the best. Isn’t it obvious, Sir?” What was obvious to me was not the reasoning but her blatant weakness of comparing ourselves with others. How would a perfectly normal person with a healthy mind decide? I get Rs.1000 more in Option B than in Option A. What if my rival gets Rs.15,000 or Rs.15 crores? The market is so large to accommodate all sizes of players. So why bother about others’ success? A psychologist friend says that more than 75% of stress comes from this bad habit of comparing with others. Tell me honestly, ladies, tell me from the depths of your heart, how many times did you compare yourselves with others today? It may be something as simple as the saree or jewels or something as complex as a husband or a child. It could even be some biological statistics. Men also compare, and at times do it in a far worse manner. But let’s keep that for some other time. Because it requires more than two, three threads tied together Now to women. Let us assume that a rich lady attends a magnificent party with her husband. They return home in the wee hours of morning after having had a rocking time. All the society ladies were present in the party. You know what the lady will tell her husband as soon as they are alone in their car? “Did you see Mrs.Rakesh’s dress? It was awful, not at all elegant. And she says she spent ten grand on that?” “Mrs. Patwardhan had a great necklace. Kaash, how I wish I had one like that?” “If I had the slim figure of Mrs. Naik, I would have been the centre of attraction today.” (Intelligent husbands would just “uh-uh” these statements. Attempting to answer or comment on them would be inviting disaster with both hands) And you can guess what happens before the party? The lady dials up a few of her friends who are attending the party and asks them, “What are you going to wear today?” Only after listening to four or five responses the woman would choose her dress. There is a comparison on what type of flooring had been used in the house, the make and the model (and hence the size) of the car their husbands drive, the diameter of their television screens, the clock-speed of their system or the speed of their broadband connection. Nastier comparisons focus on the figure, complexion and other similar matters. This habit of comparing with others even extends to matters like the Plus Two marks of their sons and daughters. I have overheard proud mothers in parties, “My son got only 1100 out of 1200.” (Well to get 1100 is not easy! The poor child would have sacrificed literally two years of his life to get that magic number. He would have ceased living and would have been reduced to a robot going to half a dozen tuitions and having a work schedule which would put a shop-floor worker to shame) There is no point in condemning the habit of comparison as it is not going to get us anywhere. It is necessary to see the root of this highly stress-inducing nasty habit. I would say it stems from our feelings of inadequacy; it is a manifestation of our inferiority complex.