The small self functions thorugh a dualistic view, through a discernment essential to keep it alive. At the same time, if there is only discernement and not a more transdual view as well, it tends to create a lot of trouble and suffering.
One of the ways the small self functions is by comparing itself to other small selves. This serves a survival function, and is also a source of suffering.
When we are exclusively identified with/as the small self, it creates suffering. When we awaken to our nature as space & awareness, and eventually as Big Mind, it is just discernment within a transdual view.
Village vs. Global
Within the level of the small self, there is also another aspect to this – as others have pointed out.
In the past, we compared ourselves to our local village of 50 (or so) people. In most cases, we had at least one area where we compared favorably with any of these 50. It could be in stonemasonry, in hunting, in weaving, in wisdom, in rearing children, in social skills, in predicting weather patterns, in recognizing animal tracks, in carpentry, in preserving food.
Today, in our age of mass media and the internet, we compare ourselves with 6.5 billion or so people. In this context, few of us compare very favorably. In any area where we have some skill or ability, there are in most cases a larger number of people who do much better than us.
The solution to not get terribly depressed by this is…
To avoid thinking about it. This does not prevent it from stewing under the surface and come up now and then.
To see through the thought, through for instance Byron Katie‘s inquiry process. To allow the belief to let go of us.
To awaken to our nature as space & awareness. Here, we find ourselves to be complete as we are. Nothing is missing.
And when we embrace our holarcy of being, from the small self through to our nature as space & awareness, we see that we are perfect as we are – and that there is room for improvement.