My name is Chase, I’m 25, and I have Non-Verbal Learning Disorder. My brother is two years younger than I am, and does not have any diagnoses. Not only is he younger than I, he also developed faster than most people. He became a black belt, hung out with his numerous friends or created things with LEGO’s, all things I wish I could do. Every stride that he made felt like a slight on me; I was supposed to have already reached that point, especially being two years older. After a couple of school changes, I remained at one school from first grade to halfway through fourth grade. From that point until high school, I was homeschooled. Somewhere during that phase, I developed a very negative mindset that I had to do something perfectly on the first try. Even worse, I dismissed any achievements because I was still “catching up” to my brother.
Fast-forward to a couple years ago. Both my brother and I were on vacation from college, and I decided to mention my perfectionistic attitudes. His response changed my outlook on the problem, and on life.
Theodore Roosevelt once said “Comparison is the Thief of Joy.” At first it didn’t really make sense. As I thought about it, however, it became much clearer. There will always be someone in the world that is better than you at something. At the same time, there will also be people in the world who are not as good as you are. It is no use to try and compare yourself to Albert Einstein or Usain Bolt, because they are elite. Disappointment is imminent if you set impossible goals for yourself.
Therefore, the person to whom you should be comparing yourself is… yourself.
It doesn’t have to be something monumental, and I think that’s really important to understand. Nobody wins a spelling bee or gets accepted to college every single day. Appreciate the little things that you do that help bring you closer to becoming an adult. Remembering to pick up your sister from dance practice, getting taxes done on time and learning how to cook a new meal are all things that are worthy of praise.
As the years have gone by, I have made fewer comparisons to others. Yet it still happens, especially when a news story about some 15 year-old prodigy or something similar comes up. However, comparisons to my brother have lessened considerably. We know what each of us is good at, and that makes for a much better understanding of who we are as individuals.