The Evil “C” Word

You are probably familiar with the phrase, “dropping the “F” bomb”, but you have probably never heard of the “C” bomb. Over the years, I have come to see the destructive power of the “C” word – comparison.

When my daughter was younger, I used to affirm her on a regular basis saying, “you’re so good at everything”. I was so proud of her small accomplishments and she fully believed what I told her – that she was good at everything.

Now that she is at the ripe old age of five, she is already realizing that she is not actually good at everything. A couple weeks ago she saw another five-year-old going down the ‘big’ water slide by grandma and grandpa’s cottage. Since Erin doesn’t even like putting her head under water, she doesn’t dare to go down the slide. I could see her watching that other five-year-old, comparing herself to that child, and processing that she couldn’t do something that another child her age could easily do.

Of course, every one of us must come to the healthy realization that we are not good at everything. Part of growing up is learning our strengths and weaknesses. I don’t actually want my daughter growing up believing that she is good at everything.

At the same time, I don’t want my daughter to grow up believing that everyone else is good at everything and she isn’t. It is often in middle school when kids begin to beat themselves up internally as they compare themselves to others. Many middle school students struggle deeply with their self-esteem because they are comparing themselves to others and feel very inadequate.

When talking to your children as they share the frustrations they feel  when comparing themselves to others, here are a few things to keep in mind:

-Listen and understand before you give any advice (a good rule in almost any situation.)
-Remind your child that they are loved regardless of the way they look, the skills they have, or the accomplishments they have achieved.
-Help them to see that they are likely comparing their weaknesses to the strengths of others.
-Help them to realize that they are probably harder on themselves than anyone else.
-Tell them to strive to do “their best” rather than “the best”.
-Talk about their dreams and goals to help them get perspective that they can accomplish great things in spite of the weaknesses they see in themselves.

The evil “C” word is still a reality at times for most of us as adults. It would be naive to think that you can offer some quick advice and your child will be done comparing themselves to others. Continue to invest positively in your child’s self esteem and give them perspective whenever you see your child playing the comparison game.

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