Stacy Ellingen

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Stacy’s Journal:  Comparisons

2018-01-07
By: Stacy Ellingen
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“Don’t compare yourself to others“.   It’s something most people are told beginning at a young age.  When people compare themselves to others, it’s often either to invoke pity on himself/herself or it’s to make him/her feel superior over someone else.  Though we are told not to, it’s nearly impossible not to compare ourselves to others.  It’s human nature.  There are several different facets that people compare to.  Whether it’s economic status, sexual orientation, religious preference, physical appearance, lifestyle preference, or something else, comparing is something most of us do on a daily basis.

People with disabilities are no different.  I can’t speak for others with disabilities, but I probably compare myself to others more than most.  Since my disability only affects my physical abilities, as I’ve said before, my expectations of myself coincide with what my friends without disabilities are doing.  As I’ve written about in past entries, growing up my parents had normal expectations of me.  Sure, some of them were modified, but, basically, I was expected to do what my peers were doing.  Those normal expectations continued through college, and, even finding a job.  It’s because of these high expectations that I’m as successful and independent as I am today.

However, after college, I began to notice that I wasn’t keeping up with my “normal” friends.  Things such as finding significant others, “moving in together,” engagements, weddings, and pregnancies were and continue to be happening to many of my friends.  Like I’ve said before, I’m very happy for them; I just wish those things would happen for me.  Even though I have those expectations for myself, others don’t.  I’ve heard things like, “honey, we don’t expect you to get married,” and “if it happens, great, but if not, that’s okay too,” from close family members.  While I understand where they’re coming from and I’m grateful to know that my family doesn’t care if those things never happen to me, it also makes me sad that those normal expectations stopped.  I’ve discussed this with a friend who has very similar circumstances (and whose family feels the same way), and we agree it’s an interesting conundrum.  We wonder why those normal expectations stopped for us, but, yet, in our hearts, we know and understand it’s because our families want us to know that it’s okay with them if we don’t accomplish those monumental milestones in life.

That being said, it doesn’t stop me from comparing myself to others.  Like many people, I find myself comparing my life to others when things aren’t going right.  When things aren’t going right because of having a disability (my wheelchair breaks down, staffing problems, health issues, etc…), I often think about what my peers have going on.  Of course, during times such as those, in my mind, everyone else unrealistically has a seemingly perfect life.  An example of this happened in December.  I was having problems filling my care shifts for January.  One night I was really frustrated and told my mom, “Everyone else is worrying about what to get their kids for Christmas while I’m sitting here wondering who’s going to get me out of bed in January.” Obviously, I was venting out of frustration which does no good, but it goes to show how I sometimes compare my life to others.

Oftentimes, comparing ourselves to others is irrational; however, there are times when it can boost one’s self-esteem.  While it’s not a very kind thing to do if one is boastful about it, comparing yourself to others who have similar situations can boost one’s confidence when realizing how well you’re doing compared to someone else.  Of course, it could work the opposite way too.  If you witness someone with similar circumstances doing better than you, it likely will cause some mixed feelings.  In that case, you may have some bad feelings about yourself, but it also will hopefully make you want to improve.  I sometimes see this in the disability community, and it’s not necessarily a negative thing.  At least for me, when I see someone with similar circumstances succeeding at something, it makes me want to at least try it.  Seeing people who have similar abilities accomplish amazing things ignites a spark in me.  I can only hope I do the same for others.

Whether we realize it or not, comparing ourselves to one another is a part of life.  Oftentimes, comparing ourselves does no good, but sometimes it can ignite a spark in us and make us realize what is possible! 

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