Yesterday, I was commiserating with a friend about his lack of progress on his writing, and he made a comment to the effect of how discouraging it was to listen to authors who seemed to finish writing a book every few months.
It reminded me of a conversation I had with level_head many years ago. I was lamenting something or other -- I don't recall what -- and remarked on how much more accomplished he was than I, and why couldn't I be like that? Level Head replied, in his usual firm but gentle way, "Please don't use me as a stick with which to beat yourself."
That stuck with me: that sense that making those kinds of comparisons is not only unkind to me, but unkind to my friends. They don't want to be a stick any more than I want to be beaten, and why was I doing this anyway? I won't claim that I've never done it since, but it has certainly cut down tremendously on my impulse to do so. I can be happy for my friends who keep a tidy home or write a book every few months or lose weight or do all of the above while raising children and volunteering and just generally have got this whole Life thing under control. I don't need to follow that up with "why can I not Adult like [X] does?" I can sympathize with another's struggle to reach their personal goals, even if their version of "failure" is more impressive than my version of "success". I am not them. They are not me. It's not a competition*. Moreover, it's just as cruel to make people feel guilty over what they've achieved as it is to make myself feel terrible about what I haven't.
* I know there are folks who will try to make it one: the fat-shamers and the "you're not a REAL writer unless you're doing [Y]" and whathaveyou, but those people are not my friends.
Anyway, I shared some of this with my friend, and he said it was useful. So I thought I'd put it on LJ in case anyone else does too.
Also, to Level Head: thank you, dear sir, for that gentle request way-back-when. :)