Define Relative

Let’s Define Relative & Why What’s Important To You May Not Be To Someone Else

The comment, “It’s all relative,” can diminish something we think is important. Let’s define relative so you can learn how to use it to improve your life rather than feel hurt by it.


Have you ever been frustrated that you thought something (good or bad) was a big deal and someone else didn’t? The law of relativity states that nothing is good or bad, big or small, high or low (etc) until you relate it to something else. If the person you share your situation with has had much bigger things happen in their life, it may seem small to them and this can create conflict as it may feel like they are not taking you seriously.

The universal law of relativity is all about comparisons. Simple example: a 12×12 inch box is small next to a 14×14 inch box. The same 12×12 inch box is large next to a 9×9 inch box.

Do you agree that we compare all the time? The challenge is that we usually compare ourselves and to someone else who has or is doing something we want to have or do so we usually come out on the losing end. We compare ourselves to women we think are more attractive, in better shape or really have their stuff together in their career and we feel disappointed, unhealthy, unattractive or depressed.

Since the law works both ways, when we compare ourselves to women who may have experienced a tragedy or have an illness, we may feel grateful and more fortunate about the life and health we have.

It’s all relative becomes beneficial is when we relate our situation to someone else’ and realize it’s not that bad. For example, we could be having what seems to be a continuous disagreement with a friend about values that is driving us nuts! It seems big and it feels even bigger and very important. Someone else we know may have just lost their friend in a tragic accident, in which case our situation is small and can be managed to retain our friendship. Whereas the other person would love to have such a small challenge as a simple disagreement if they could just have their friend back.

My personal example:

I used to feel discouraged and frustrated driving an older (although beloved) vehicle. It seemed like a big deal to me since our vehicle is an extension of who we are, plays a big part in our self image and makes a statement as to our success or lack there of. My car seemed to be out of alignment with who I had become but replacing it at that time wasn’t financially possible. Then I met someone who had an older car like mine that got totaled in an accident. Since it wasn’t worth much to anyone but her, she only got a few dollars for it and couldn’t even afford to buy another vehicle. My situation wasn’t nearly as bad as hers! It was all relative. When I related my situation to someone else’ situation, I felt grateful and blessed to still have my car because it was very valuable to me even if it may not be to an insurance company.

The universal law of relativity is something we use all the time but usually to our detriment instead of to our advantage.

Now that we can define relative, we can eliminate the hurt that used to come from someone disagreeing with what we find important and possibly start a conversation with them about it for better understanding. Chances are good that something they think is important, doesn’t mean much to you and pretending it does is fake – better to understand and communicate differences.

Please let me know one way you can make one of your situations better by using the law of relativity. You can share in a comment below.

Share your thoughts...

11 thoughts on “Let’s Define Relative & Why What’s Important To You May Not Be To Someone Else”

  1. I used to be easily offended when someone didn’t agree that what I thought was important really was. Understanding they have a different perspective made a difference and I felt better and now using the 12×12 inch box example, it makes a LOT more sense. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for your comment, Meredith. It sounds like you’re saying you can use this new awareness for ALL situations where there is a discrepancy in importance. I think it will be very powerful for you. It sure has been for me! And gratitude increases when we consciously compare and understand. I’ve found communication more peaceful as well. Enjoy! Let me know how it goes! ~ Kelly

  2. When you are busy comparing yourself to others, it takes away from you. Now when I have the urge to compair, I compair myself today to who I was yesterday. Nice blog post and a great reminder.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Michelle! GREAT suggestion of comparing yourself to yourself at an earlier time. When we do this, we can track how we’re doing without feeling threatened or putting ourselves down. Thank you for being here!

  3. I love how the Universe gives us what we need when we need it. This morning I had a disagreement with a friend who thought some of my work was below par. When I was trying to explain my rationale…(I would rather produce something rather than let excuses stop me) he had no interest in listening. My feelings were hurt. And moments before I read your blog I had just finally came around to appreciating his viewpoint. And it is all relative. LOL. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    1. Lisa, there is so much power and inspiration in appreciating someone else’ viewpoint! When we do, we can easily get inspiration instead of hurt feelings that take us in the defensive direction. Congratulations! I’ve found that as we practice this, we get quicker and quicker at appreciating and the hurt feelings are diminished and only last for a very short time, while we’re adjusting our mindset. Thank you for your comment!

  4. I often use relativity to help me get back into a sense of gratitude for what I have. When bills loom and I’m not certain how I’m going to pay them (which is a relatively small problem compared to poverty, abuse, loss of a loved one) I reframe and think about being grateful that I have a home, food to eat etc. Sometimes gratitude for even the most basic things can greatly improve my mood. I have eyes so I can see the beautiful day… oh hey, it Is a beautiful day. Let’s go be out in the sun! etc. It is so important to understand relativity as something more than a way to make myself feel small. Great post. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thank you for your valuable comment, Kieta. I appreciate your examples as they are heartfelt, valid and powerful. I often ask people “What’s the best thing that has happened to you all day?” and they are at a loss, sometimes for minutes. Of course, they can come up with lots of examples of things that didn’t go their way but to appreciate what they already have and how valuable it is seems to be a challenge. My intention is to change that and my clients know how good it feels to recognize positive things like having eyes to see a beautiful day with and legs that work to get us where we’re going. Enjoy your sunshine, Kieta!

  5. Hi Kelly,

    I use to compare myself to others when they did not see my point of view to than I came to the
    realization that they might have had more experience or lack of experience with what was
    concerning me. I would accept their point of view until I realized that they did not want to deal
    with reality and did not have any boundaries,m for example my sister would say I was crazy every time set boundaries with someone who tried to take advantage of me. We had a conversation recently and she said it was me being forthright with others instead of agreeing with everything they said or wanted me to do. I was surprised because she could have said that year ago instead of verbally attacking me.

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience, Arletha.

      I know that sometimes people feel threatened by those of us who have learned how to protect ourselves from being taken advantage of. In an effort to look at things in a positive manner, rather than feeling the need to protect ourselves from people behaving badly, I find it helpful to look at boundaries this way. We are protecting our mental and emotional integrity so that we can be at our best as well as be there for others if we choose. Those who have not mastered boundaries themselves or are the ones who tend to take advantage of people dislike that we are clear on the behavior we will accept. Oftentimes, the ones who have yet to master boundaries learn from our example as your sister may have over time. 🙂

  6. Pingback: How To Be Happy: It's A Process -

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