We live in a highly competitive society. As a result, we tend to confront each other at all times and in practically all spheres. We compare ourselves to our neighbors, friends, other professionals, and even celebrities. However, such comparisons do more harm than good, especially since there will always be an area where we get the worst of it. We will always find someone more successful, skilled or attractive. On the other hand, in Japanese, there is a word that can act as an antidote to this habit of comparing ourselves: oubaitori.
The precious meaning of oubaitori
Oubaitori is spelled “桜梅桃李” in Japanese. What’s interesting is that each character individually represents a different flower: cherry, apricot, peach, and plum.
These trees bloom in spring, a season that is a wonderful spectacle of colors in Japan, bathing the landscape in shades of pink, mauve, blush, and white. Often these trees grow close together, but each blooms in a specific order, shape, and time.
They all bring something unique to the landscape. Each embellishes it in their own way. For this reason, the Japanese word oubaitori contains the notion of non-comparison. Although all these trees produce beautiful flowers that mature into juicy fruits, oubaitori celebrates the uniqueness of each one. Therefore, neither its flowers nor its fruits are comparable.
Oubaitori is a Japanese concept that takes this idea and applies it to people.
Each flower, which grows according to its rhythm, with its own colors, aromas and final fruits, is a permanent reminder that we are all following a once-in-a-lifetime journey. That means that it makes no sense to compare ourselves with others, but it is much better to focus on our growth and value what makes us special.
Just as flowers grow differently, people also develop differently. We are all different. We have different skills and passions. We follow different paths. We have different goals. And we should be proud of what makes us unique.
The benefits of embracing oubaitori
Theodore Roosevelt said that “comparison is the thief of joy.” When we compare ourselves with others we can only see things from our experience. We take a narrow perspective because we don’t have the full picture of the other person’s journey and probably don’t even know their reality well enough to establish objective standards of comparison.
Everyone only shares what they want others to see, so any comparison ends up being biased. This can cause us to judge ourselves too harshly or even underestimate ourselves since in most cases we end up comparing ourselves to idealized or, at best, biased images.
Practicing oubaitori, on the other hand, allows us to get out of the loop of toxic comparisons. It will make us feel much more secure, happier and will probably increase our confidence in our abilities.
Far from being discouraged because we haven’t been able to get as far as everyone else, we can feel empowered that we’ve gotten as far as we could. This change occurs because we stop looking outside to assess our life history. We take into account our starting point and the resources we have had to make our trip.
The concept of oubaitori can, therefore, also serve as a powerful driving force. It encourages us to improve every day based on the only possible standard of comparison: ourselves.
The 5 steps to practice the art of oubaitori
1. Be aware of your inner dialogue. To practice oubaitori you first have to stop that almost automatic tendency to compare yourself with others. Therefore, you need to keep an eye on your thoughts, especially the destructive criticism that comes from comparisons.
2. Treat yourself with kindness. Oubaitori means not only stop comparing yourself, but also being aware of your uniqueness. Therefore, you must learn to treat yourself with more kindness, reminding yourself of your strengths, abilities and achievements instead of incessantly punishing yourself up for your mistakes.
3. Cultivate the habit of gratitude. Keeping a gratitude journal or remembering three things for which you feel grateful each day will help you change your perspective and focus more on yourself and all that life has given you or you have achieved, instead of incessantly looking constantly at the others. This way you can be much more positive and you won’t judge yourself so harshly.
4. Focus on your potential. Instead of complaining about what you lack, you must learn to capitalize on your strengths. It is up to you to use those abilities to take advantage of the opportunities that life gives you. That change in perspective will give you greater motivation to keep going and achieve your dreams.
5. Use the success of others as a driving force. If they can do it, why can’t you? Naturally, you will encounter barriers, obstacles, and challenges along the way, but you can use the achievements of others as a driving force. Don’t compare their successes to your own, just use them as motivators to try harder and believe in yourself.
Embracing the philosophical concept of oubaitori, ultimately, allows us to develop a more positive mentality, helps us to be happier and opens the door to personal growth. It is a worthwhile change.