Tag Archives: personal strengths

Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others

Written by Kristin Barton Cuthriell, M.Ed, MSW, LCSW

It was a picture of a tree, laden with beautiful blossoms looking as if they were about to bloom, that caught my eye. The colors were radiant making the entire drawing come to life. The artist, a young-looking twelve-year-old boy, enveloped over his work, sitting at a round table in the rear of the  room at the psychiatric hospital where I worked. Group therapy was getting ready to begin and the adolescents were all called to join the circle. Sam, who was suffering from symptoms of severe depression, slowly got up to join the group leaving his masterpiece behind.

As the group got underway, the adolescents began to share things that had become difficult and felt intolerable in their lives. Sam described what it was like for him growing up in a family of athletes and the expectations that he felt were put on him.  He listed all of his failed attempts from playing community soccer and feeling like the worst player on the team to trying out for the middle school basketball team only to have his peers laugh at him. As he continued to share and describe his experiences, it was evident that he considered himself to be a failure as a person because he lacked athletic talent.

Here was a boy who was an extremely talented artist, yet totally unaware of his wonderful gift. Had he grown up in a family of artists, his entire self-perception would probably have been radically different. He had come to view his self-worth dependent on his athletic ability. By comparing himself to his athletic family and peers, he had come to view himself as deficient; deficient, not just in athletics, but deficient as a person, unable to recognize his beautiful amazing unique gifts and talents. Part of Sam’s therapy would be to help him change the way in which he perceived himself.

We can learn from Sam and make a conscious effort not to compare ourselves to others because we all have different personal strengths and limitations and our worth is not dependent on our ability to perform.  We can also help our children find their own unique strengths separate from our own so that they begin to appreciate their uniqueness and individuality.

Next Post Tuesday  Part Two:  Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others: It is not a true comparison

Comments are encouraged. If there is a mental health topic you would like to know more about, please let me know.

Practice a Healthy Perspective

Written by Kristin Barton Cuthriell, M.Ed, MSW, LCSW

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement, nothing can be done without hope and confidence. – Helen Keller

Several years ago I was facilitating a group and the topic of discussion that day was personal strengths. I asked all group members to identify at least one personal strength or something that they were thankful for. As we went around the circle, giving each person an opportunity to share, several individuals could not come up with one thing about themselves that they viewed as a strength. The last person to share sat to my left in a wheelchair. Looking eager to finally have his turn to share, he stated, “I am happy that I still have my right leg.” There he sat in his wheelchair with only one leg and a smile on his face. Although he had lost a leg years ago, he was thankful to have the other. The group discussion then changed. Group members who previously thought that they had nothing to be thankful for, realized that they had two legs and could walk, two eyes and could see, enough food to eat each day, a bed to sleep in each night. It was amazing to see the group member’s perspective change due to one man’s optimism.

We all can learn from the man in the wheelchair. I am sure that losing his leg was not in his life plan. And I am also pretty sure that he was not so optimistic immediately following his accident.  But I do believe that he learned to accept his loss and move on with his life. Life can be tough. Things don’t often go the way that we plan. We may have to grieve losses and work on forgiving ourself and others. We will have days where we just don’t feel good. We may even have days where we just feel defeated. But if we can open our minds to a new perspective we may become aware of strengths that we did not even know that we possessed.

Things may happen and our lives may not be the same as a result. But if we can learn to accept our past and figure out what we can still do, we will not allow the past to wreck our future. If you find yourself thinking about what your life use to be like, how good you use to have it, and how other people have it better than you, you will remain stuck. It is never too late. What can you do moving forward?

The happiest people don’t always have the best of everything, they make the most of what they have.  – author unknown