“Don’t compare yourself to others. There’s no comparison between the sun and the moon. They shine when it’s their time.” Anonymous
Look Bravely into the Mirror!
One of the first challengers to the theories and methods of Sigmund Freud was Alfred Adler. Freud, a man of strong opinions and colossal ego, resented Adler and his temerity in questioning his tenets.
Adler’s courage and backbone in challenging “The Father of Modern Psychology” was all the more impressive, given his own humble origins. The younger sibling of an outstanding and accomplished brother, Alfred struggled in school initially. He lived in the shadow of his brother’s brilliance. Alfred’s life and accomplishments are a testament to perseverance and courage. And most of his contributions flowed from that childhood struggle, to overcome his self-perceived limitations.
Alfred Adler coined the term “inferiority complex.” He saw human development as an endless quest to bridge the next hurdle in life. An infant seeks to hold the bottle herself, then walk, then talk as she sees her parents and siblings do so. A child strives to master the coordination needed to navigate a two-wheeler. And adolescents move from one level of education or skill to the next in a quest for self-reliance. Adler tells us that this is a lifelong journey, and it is our human nature to do so. The desire to accomplish, to overcome our innate sense of inferiority, is the engine that drives all of us forward.
But today’s lesson and message comes in the form of a cautionary script. Consider the following:
“We make the mistake of judging our weaknesses against the strengths of others.”
Whether we are inclined either to envy or despair, this is a rather natural tendency in life. “I wish I had as much money as he has;” or “I’m not at attractive as she is;” or “They are so much smarter (or talented, or tall, or slim, or whatever) than I am.” Certainly, most of us need not look very far to find a person with a superior quality or attribute of some sort. But what are we missing?
While we are busy envying the rich person, a wealthy woman looks longingly at our youth or our talent at the piano. A man may admire the beauty of his friend’s wife, but chooses to overlook the fact that she has a critical or vain personality. A successful executive watches enviously as a poor kid from a chaotic upbringing stuffs a basketball with both hands. And so on.
If we couple the earlier italicized message above with Adler’s theory of innate inferiority, we may have arrived at the source of our angst and persistent dissatisfaction. As the “snowman” says, our thoughts dictate both our actions and our feelings.
So what is a person to do about these tendencies to feel “less than” and below others? Try this. If it is true, as Adler postulates, that we come into the world naturally inferior, let’s turn that perception around. Make a list of your accomplishments, of our “overcomings.” Type in bold letters the biggest ones. Then circle the achievements that you truly never thought you would attain. And smile.
The poet Homer tells us, “The journey is the thing.” We are always looking to the next goal, the next victory, and next accomplishments. It never stops. Is that endless pursuit tedious or exciting to you? Is it fatiguing or energizing?
Tennyson asks, “A man’s reach must exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”
“A flower doesn’t think of comparing itself to the flower next to it; it just blooms!” Zen Shin