A woman once came up to me and started the conversation with, “I met your brother once, are you as kind as him?” I was annoyed at first, mostly because usually I’m used to a hello and an introduction first, but maybe in the new age of transgender bathrooms and Pokemon GO, ignoring social conventions was a perfectly acceptable thing to do. Anyway, she quickly figured out the answer to her question when I brushed her away with a cold “no.” Just kidding. I replied like a good child who respects their elders. “Oh, you knew my brother?” “Yes, he’s such a helpful Boy Scout. Last weekend,...” And she, some person that hasn’t told me her name but still knew who I was, proceeded to make me feel scrutinized as she regaled me with the tale of what my helpful Boy Scout brother did the past weekend.
And yes, woe is me, the girl whose brother constantly trumps her every success and failure, the girl who before she can even introduce herself, is compared to her better older brother. But I can’t brush off that encounter with a “well, that’s not fair, of course I’m not as kind as my wondrous sibling.” That makes me blind to the truth that no, I’m not as kind or helpful as I should be. Yet, this “should” isn’t some stranger’s expectation of should, my family’s sense of should, but mine. I should work to become better on my own standards.
When people aspire to be like others, the gap of not quite meeting the standard can make you feel discouraged, and no matter how hard you try, you won’t ever be good enough, all while not seeing that you’re better than the you of yesterday. This thinking is because with your eyes on the future, you can’t see your progress from the past.
So when I look at an attempt at success and think “well at least it's better than…” or “This sucks compared to…”, maybe it’s easier on myself to think “this seems like I wrote it sleep deprived 10 minutes before class” or “I know I couldn’t have done this a month ago.”
Your own progress isn’t the only thing you are ignorant to. If you think “I’m working hard and yet I can’t be like that one other guy, what’s wrong with me?”, then you refuse to acknowledge the other person’s past struggles to become who they are. If you are struggling, why do you not fathom that they have also worked for themselves?
Comparing yourself to others also lowers your potential and makes it easier to slack, which, yes, sounds heck of a lot more appealing than… actually putting in time and effort. Ew. But just today, I walked into the library and saw one of my friends sat at a computer, Google Docs open, everything double spaced, even the name, class, date, and teacher, yet empty white takes up more than half of the bottom part of the page. A word of gratitude to the Holy Father slipped from my mouth before I could stop myself. And why? Simply because I discovered another compatriot who has not done his homework? How does that make my own lack of progress better? I give myself a false sense of complacency and forcibly look away from the reality that I will fail this assignment, but that’s okay, because others will too! And this can be more important than something trivial as your own grades and future. What about when there is an injustice in the world and no one speaks up about it? Everyone is fine with it and there’s no expectation for you to do anything -- in fact, changing something will upset a system. But if you look at others and say, “They’re not doing anything, so I’m fine,” that could stifle your own inner voice yelling “No, there is something very wrong here!”
I do understand that in our society where success simply means “being better than that other person”, finding happiness in improving yourself seems like a pitiful way to make yourself feel less like a waste of space, but as you slowly but surely work hard, you may find yourself becoming better than the others all without your awareness.
I believe in setting your own goals and striving to be a better version of yourself, instead of aspiring to be others.