Recently I had an interesting conversation with my oldest daughter. She was struggling with math; her arch nemesis. She found herself doubting her own abilities even more than usual that day. Her comment to me was, “I’m not like my brother and sister who “get it” and that makes me feel bad about myself.” She continued, “This sibling seems to “get it” with no problem at all, and then the other one seems to work only a little bit and then they “get it”. I struggle over math EVERY TIME.” She again expressed how it made her feel bad about herself and that she just “knew” she was never going to “get it”.
I thought for a while and asked her, “How are you doing in spelling?” She smiled and said, “Great!” “And what about grammar?” I said. She tilted her head, smiled, and sang out, “Mom, you’re my teacher, you know that I have been doing well.” “Hmm!” I said. “That’s funny! Those two subjects are ones in which your siblings struggle with the most.” “I know, mom! I don’t understand why it’s so hard for them. It’s easy for me!” “Do you think that your siblings feel bad because they don’t do as well at spelling and grammar as you do?” I asked. This seemed to surprise her. She had not considered the idea that someone else would struggle with something that comes easy to her. Moreover, that they would feel equally bad about themselves. She thought a little longer and replied, “Well, maybe they do. But they shouldn’t!” I asked, “Why?” “Because we are each good at some things and we each have to work harder on others things.” My response, “Exactly!”
Comparison. This singular word brings about the most damaging effects to an individual. We seem to have an inherent need to compare. I’ve heard of those who compare jobs, cars, kids, houses, lawns, clothes, hair, beards, cup size, waist size, bench press amount, and so on. We seem to wonder how these “other” people have their crap together and yet you can’t seem to make it through breakfast. Just like in my daughter’s case, it makes our hearts ache, our doubts grow, our creativity drops, and our self respect takes a nose-dive.
I have found that this seems to happen everywhere in life – even at NKM&BJJ. Here are actual conversations I have overheard in the gym…
”I’m never going to be as good as such-n-such. I can’t get in to train as often.”
“I can’t do that technique because my body doesn’t move the way his/hers does.”
“Look how easily such-n-such does that technique. I’m never going to be that good.”
Or the comment that makes my heart ache the most,
“I have to train more because I want to be better than such-n-such.”
or its variance,
“I need to train harder because I want to get to that level/stripe/belt before such-n-such does.”
Can I just say this, as politely as possible, KNOCK THAT CRAP OFF! Since when is life a competition?More specifically to NKM&BJJ, since when is self-defense a competition with another student? When did each of us enter a race to black belt? Seriously, what does it matter that you learn how to do a stick defense-lateral swing first or better than someone else. In your journey of jiu jitsu, does it really matter that it took you three months less to get your stripe than it did someone else?
Let’s take a step back and really think about what you are doing when comparing yourself to someone else. In essence, comparison does two things:
1. It keeps you from being proud of your own accomplishments, and
2. It diminishes the accomplishments of the other person.
You are tearing yourself down AND tearing others down too!
There are numerous sayings out there about comparison.
Comparison is the thief of joy.
Don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
Don’t compare your Chapter 1 with my Chapter 20.
My all time favorite saying is:
The flower never thinks about competing with the one next to it, it just blooms!
To me, that’s just it! My daughter can be a sunflower, while my other children are a rose, and a lily. Each of them is beautiful in who they are and the journey that are taking in life. You, my dear reader, are just the same. Be a tulip, a wisteria, a daffodil, heck, you can even be a bird of paradise. You rock at being you! And for the love of all things, stop comparing yourself to others.