Question: I am nineteen years old, and I have struggled with a bad self-concept all my life. It seems that everyone I know has more to offer than I do. I envy the girls who are better looking, more athletic, or smarter than I am. I just don’t measure up to my own expectations. How can I deal with my own insecurities?
Someone said, “Comparison is the root of all inferiority.” It is true. When you look at another person’s strengths and compare them to your own weaknesses, there is no way to come out feeling good about yourself. That is what you are doing when you pit yourself against the “best and brightest” around you. This destructive game begins in primary school when we begin to evaluate ourselves critically. Even at the young age, our self-image is shaped by how we stack up against our peers. It’s not how tall we are that matters – it’s who is tallest. It’s not how fast we can run – it’s who runs fastest. It’s not how smart we are – it’s who is smartest. It’s not how pretty or handsome we are – it’s who is most gorgeous. Thus begins a pattern of self-doubt that often becomes all-consuming during adolescence. For some people it continues well into adult life. This is why millions of women buy fashion magazines and then envy the beauty of the models. It’s why we watch Miss Universe contests and why some men read about successful and powerful businessmen. When we do that, we’re weighing ourselves against the most admired assets of others. It is an exercise that brings us nothing but pain, and yet we continue to engage in it.
It appears that you are caught up in this destructive pattern. Perhaps a wise counsellor can help you see that you are a worthy human being exactly the way you are. Mental and spiritual health begin with an acceptance of life as it is and a willingness to make the most of what has been given. When that is achieved, comparison with others is no longer an important issue.
Excerpted from The Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide published by Tyndale House Publishers.