By Younas Chaudhary
My eighth-grade schoolteacher in Pakistan often reminded me that I would not succeed in life. He compared me to the highest-ranking students in my class and said that there was no point in me studying any further. As an average B- student, I was not discouraged because Pakistani culture at that time taught us not to be sensitive about comparisons. That was the way of life those days. Looking back, I did not feel depressed or angry. Those comments were common at that period as there were mostly illiterate people living around us. There was rampant body shaming, cultural appropriation and religious and ethnic discrimination. As a child, I had to adapt to that culture.
It was customary practice those days, if you were the first-born son in a Pakistani family, you were the apple of the eye, the most loved, and the one most used for comparison. The oldest son got the best education, best clothing, and received preferential treatment. The younger children went to low performing schools and basically received treatment from the bottom of the barrel.
My parents were no different, the oldest son got the best. I lived my young life of partiality and comparisons and when I grew up, I was quite numb whenever I heard similar comparisons. Pakistani society at that time encouraged comparisons thinking that it would boost your self-confidence and make you aspire to be like the one you are compared with. It is true that comparisons affect you psychologically, especially in circumstances where you felt sidelined.
I should admit that I engaged in some of this behavior when raising my first two children. We would often compare them to their cousins who were more successful academically. However, as years progressed, we realized that it was the wrong thing to do despite it being rampantly prevalent in Asian cultures. Parents first ask who got the highest grades in class rather than asking what their own child’s grades were?
Comparisons are discouraging, a waste of time and do not serve any purpose. Over the years, I have learned to accept and be gracious rather than compare myself to another person in terms of looks, dress, money, or other material possessions. We become more productive when we try to improve our lives rather than compare ourselves to our neighbor or a relative who just got a new Tesla in his driveway.
The US President Theodore Roosevelt said that “comparison is the thief of joy.” Stay in your lane, do work that has purpose for you, and be content with what you have. This will boost your self-esteem and give you a lot of self-confidence. Recently, I met with a family member who has mostly everything in life, especially good health, but was complaining that they have less money compared to other family members and friends in their circle.
I mentioned that more money is not a solution in one’s life. My wife has been living with Parkinson’s Disease for the past seven years and if she is given a choice between a luxurious life filled with money or a cure for her suffering, I know in a heartbeat she would choose good health.
This is quite necessary that we truly feel blessed with what we have, and stop comparing ourselves with other people, especially in monetary terms and in acquiring material wealth. I can tell you frankly that I enjoyed the thrill of making money. Today, I am living a semi-retired life. All I can tell you is that having money is good, but money can never bring you inner peace or happiness.
Contentment comes when you stop comparing yourself with others and instead accept and enjoy their success with selflessness. You will feel and find real inner peace in it.
Thank you for reading and commenting on my blogs and I want to extend my heartfelt best wishes to you and your family for a pleasant, safe, and healthy 2022. Happy New Year. Blessings!
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated. Further, I make no warranty regarding the accuracy or effectiveness of my recommendations, and readers are advised to consult other advisors as well as their own judgments in making business decisions.