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
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