Do I need to be more like them?
Childhood is fantasised in most cultures. In the West, Mum and Dad read Grimm's Fairy Tales or Hans Christian Anderson. In Bangladesh, Mum and Dad read Dakshinaranjan Mitra's Thakurmar Jhuli.
Fairy tales follow a common formula. Most end with the phrase, "...and they lived happily ever after." Reality is, childhood for many is anything but living happily ever after.
From the moment kids go to school, they're compared against other kids who do better. The boy in the seat to your right is wonderful at Maths. He's the teacher's pet. On the day the teacher isn't in a good mood, you're bombarded with, "Why aren't you like him?"
Pink Floyd expressed this wonderfully with "How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?" I'm sure we can all recall one teacher who compared us with their pet and struck terror in our hearts. We can probably laugh it off now. When we had to go through it, though, it was tough.
If you thought teachers were the only ones in school who compared you with their pet, you must have lived in Geoffrey Boycott's "cloud-cuckoo land". There was another boy who sat to your left. He was the one with the latest gadget. No, that friend didn't compare himself with you, but did indirectly show off his gadget.
Wait. There's another one. You went on a school trip. Unfortunately, your Mum and Dad didn't dress you up in designer clothes. Your friends never pointed a finger, but you still compared yourself with others. Comparisons can go either way. Don't always blame it on others. The problem is, it's not simple.
Comparisons are ubiquitous. Just open Facebook or Instagram. Your friends are posting and showing off. Once again, you're comparing yourself with them. It's Hotel California. "You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave."
Even if it's getting on your nerves, you can't block or remove your friends due to social pressure.
Comparing X with Y isn't necessarily a problem. Our parents, elders, teachers and well-wishers want our best. We would definitely love to see our loved ones be as happy as the others. We also compare ourselves with others to improve. The problem is, how many people can handle the pressure of these comparisons?
Pressure, over time, they say, makes diamonds out of coal. What they don't tell you, is that too much pressure can turn coal to powder.
Do promise yourself one thing. When you become a parent, or a teacher who handles young minds, never shatter the dreams of the young by comparing them with somebody else for no good reason. If you've experienced it yourself, then please be empathetic.
If everybody tried to be Einstein, the world would only have one colour. Even black and white has three shades; the third being grey.