“Senior class president, she must be heaven sent. She was never the last one standing. A beautiful debutant, everything that you want. Never too harsh or too demanding. Maybe I’ll admit it, I’m a little bitter. Everybody loves her, but I just wanna hit her. I don’t know why I’m feeling sorry for myself. I spend all my time wishing that I was someone else.” (from the song “The Girl Next Door,” by Saving Jane)
Adolescents ask themselves all sorts of questions related to their identity. Am I athletic and strong enough to play varsity? Am I good looking and fashionable enough? Do I have the cool clothes and gear? Do I like the right kind of music? Do I have the right friends?
Even long after high school, we measure ourselves by how we compare with our peers. Depending on our values, we assess our self-worth based on things like our socio-economic status (house, neighborhood, cars, vacations, private schools), educational level, beauty, fashion, fitness, career success, and even our volunteer activities.
It’s human nature. We judge ourselves (and each other) in every area that we value. If we value athletics, then that is how we compare ourselves to others. If we value fashion, then that is how we compare ourselves with others. However, we need to learn that anytime we compare ourselves to anyone else, we are falling into a pitfall, a trap without any good results.
There are three possible outcomes when we compare ourselves with someone else:
ARROGANCE. “I’m better than her. I must be pretty terrific in reality.” I put myself too high and others too low.
JEALOUSY. “I’m not as good as her. I must be really lousy.” I put myself too low and others too high.
CYNICISM. “I’m just like everyone else. I’m nothing special, actually.” I put myself and others down.
None of those outcomes are helpful. I’ll say it again, nothing good comes from comparing myself with others. I will get either a little too arrogant, jealous, full of self-pity, or have another negative thought.
So, what is the antidote?
It’s an attitude that says to self and others, “I am no better or worse than anybody else.”
God creates each person with various gifts, talents, and disabilities. In addition, we are all “made in His image,” which means that we reflect His goodness in our own unique way. We are all equally loved and valued by God.
God will not care where we lived, how famous we were, how beautiful we looked, whether we divorced or not, or which college we went to. It’s our inner lives, “the content of our character,” which matters.
The truth is that we are all given different circumstances, some more difficult than others. But in our lives, we all will have pain and suffering, joy and ecstasy. Life is hard for everybody. For some, it’s physical disability. For others, it’s psychological, such as anxiety, depression, or addiction. For others, it’s strained relationships with difficult people. For others, it’s poverty. There’s always something.
What makes it worse is that most people learn to hide their troubles from nearly all other people. So there is this illusion that everybody else is fine, when in reality they are not, which is one more reason NOT to compare your life with others.
Can we model this for the children in our care? Can we train them to think this way?
TO BE CONTINUED…