Do you do this? Are you a fish that judges yourself on your ability to climb?
I think it’s common. We look around us at the myriad of talents that each individual possesses. We see the bright sparks of genius and think, ‘How come I’m not like that?‘
Maybe you remember it from your school days. Someone in a maths class always gets the concepts and answers right away, while you struggle to grasp seemingly alien concepts. Or your English teacher shares a passage written by a friend that captures beautifully and elegantly the poignant message of the novel you just read. Or you are blown past on the basketball court by the captain who effortlessly cuts to the basket.
Perhaps you notice it in your peers, whose talents seem to align seamlessly with what the world tells you you ought to be doing. In the student getting her PhD. In the friend at medical school. In the artist showing her photographs. In the student finishing his MBA.
The problem is, if you look too long and too hard at the bright lights of talent around you in individuals so different to you and with a myriad of their own gifts, you forget to look at yourself as who you are, with your own sparks of genius. You search inside of you for strengths that were never meant to be yours, and in doing so miss the strengths that are already your own.
You blame yourself for never being able to fly, when in fact, if you turned away from the sky and looked instead at yourself in the ocean, you would see that you are the most graceful swimmer the world has ever seen.
After all, do you think Michael Phelps looks at Serena Williams and thinks, ‘I’m a terrible athlete because I’ll never be able to serve a tennis ball like her’?
Your contribution to the world, your talents, your gifts, your sparks of genius are all your own. Imagine what you could create if you believed in those gifts.
So perhaps on another afternoon when you find yourself on the losing side of a game of comparison, you can gently remind yourself that Einstein, who could have revelled in his superiority over others in his field, chose instead to remind the world that we all have our own strengths.