|" Comparison is the thief of joy," said former US president Theodore Roosevelt|
When I see my friend doing so well... happy... earning much more than I do, I doubt myself and question — did I choose wisely? I keep thinking that if I had stayed back and taken the same decision as him, I would have had the same life today."
That's Arnab who was happy with what he was doing and his future plans till he met a friend in Mumbai, who had started his own business, and began feeling unsure about his own life.
We keep comparing our lives with that of others. This can often be the reason for a lot of mental distress. More and more needs and wants are added in our life, creating disappointment, sadness and in some cases a sense of worthlessness.
The mother of a happy, healthy and active three- year- old girl came to us with the complain that her daughter was "not like others".
On inquiring, she said that her daughter only wanted to play with dolls and was not interested in any "extracurricular activities". Our conversation with her went as follows...
Mother: She is happy and obedient. If left alone, she is content playing with her dolls but she is least interested in drawing or dancing. I feel she is a little slow.
Therapist: What do you mean by slow?
Mother: When I see other children, they seem to be doing so many things.
They recite poems in front of others, are eager to show their drawings, but my daughter is least interested in any of this. She talks a lot but only with us. She does not behave smartly like the other kids.
Therapist: Is she not friendly with others?
Mother: She is very friendly and she makes friends easily. If you talk to her, you will adore her.
Mother: But she is not as streetsmart like the others.
Therapist: Who are these 'others'?
Mother: Other kids at her play school…. Their mothers are so happy with them and keep praising them.
Therapist: And how do you feel then?
Mother: I feel I am not doing something right. I feel frustrated and irritated and I take it out on her. Though she is a very nice child, I shout at her and keep pushing her. I can't even enjoy the time we spend together.
If this mother is not careful with her thoughts and expectations, she may eventually convince herself and her daughter that there is a problem with the girl, which can severely damage her daughter's selfesteem.
All this because her mother felt that the other kids were better than her.
From childhood we decide or are told how "mothers should be like mothers" or " fathers should be like fathers", comparing them with others' parents. Our ideas of parenting, love, life, success and several other concepts are often formed through comparison. The ability to compare is an important learning tool and is so second nature to us that the inferences we draw as a result remain largely unchallenged. We form judgements not only about others but also about ourselves.
Continuous comparisons can make us feel bad/ sad/ disappointed about everything. A good car is not good enough, a job is not good enough, our kids are not smart enough... the list goes on.
Product advertisements actually exploit this inherent human nature and try to nudge us to compare ourselves with the smiling actor and actress on TV. They lure us to buy the particular product so that we can be like them. The problem is that it very subtly but surely reinforces the belief system — " I am not good enough the way I am" — and in turn it creates self- esteem issues.
Regularly remind yourself that life is like an exam — you may feel that you can copy somebody else's answers but what you don't know is that everybody has a different question paper. Life is a work in progress and sometimes it is also important to know that you are doing enough.
Become more aware of the times when you make comparisons. Do this often so that eventually you can catch yourself when you are comparing yourself with others.
And each time that happens, just focus on what you already have.
Dr Sangbarta Chattopadhyay and Dr Namita Bhuta are medical practitioners, psychotherapists and life coaches Share your problems with them at: dr. sangbarta@ gmail. com
Saturday, 9 August 2014
Comparison : T2 article dated 10th Aug' 2014