Do You Have a Nemesis?

Portrait of Picasso (1947) by Salvador Dali

In this week’s Ask Polly, the letter writer asks, “Why am I so fascinated by other people but I can’t help taking all the interesting things I observe about them and using those things to make myself feel bad? Or, at the very least, to tell a story about how their aesthetic choices or that interesting way they carry themselves or their hobbies indicate that I am not that thing?”

Social media makes comparing yourself to others inescapable. After years of viewing comparison as toxic, I discovered that my reactions to other people online offered a valuable window into my buried interests and desires. Even having a nemesis, which I once considered a self-defeating fixation, can be a way of giving your ambition or your competitive spirit a human face. How have you used comparison and competition with others in healthy and unhealthy ways?