We live in a world of competition, comparison, and commercialism. None of these are modern constructs.
Early civilizations rose and fell based on military and political competition for supremacy and control. Religious and social doctrines have long compared their belief systems and mores; classifying what is good or bad, better or worse, and ultimately, best or worst.
Standards of quality and worth have been applied to everything from goods and services to measures of personal success and social standing.
In and of themselves, competition, comparison, and commercialism need not be seen as negative or maligned. It is how they are internalized and personalized that can lead some individuals to feel insecure and 'less than' when, at the same time, others around them are coming into their own and beginning to reveal their life potentials.
This is related to our basic hard-wired 'fight or flight' response. One either feels adequate to the challenge and life circumstance (able to participate, rise to the occasion, and 'fight', so to speak); or one feels unprepared, inadequate, and defenseless; thus, retreating into self (or 'flight').
As a 'hard-wired' response, it is not a character defect or weakness that initially leads some people to feel insecure when they see others blossoming. This reaction may serve to protect an individual from becoming physically, mentally and emotionally overwhelmed. Some people may be afraid of failure; others may actually be afraid of success, and the inherent pressure of maintaining that success.
For others, a history of negative outcomes, in some form of competition or comparison during childhood or other significant milestones in life, may cause them to feel 'less than' when seeing others begin to move forward and reach for their dreams.
Feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, anger, anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem can manifest themselves when one finds him/herself feeling 'left behind'. It is important to note that it is the individual's perception of the situation, rather than the situation itself, that leads to and perpetuates these negative emotions.
Conversely, an individual can choose to change their thought process in such a situation, and in turn, promote healthy, more positive emotions and self-esteem. One can choose to believe and self-reinforce that they will reach their own potential; and that their energies are best directed to achieving their own goals.In response, the individual's self-esteem rises.