Some of us can identify with the Queen in the story of Snow White when she asks the magic mirror, 'Who is the fairest of them all?'
Instead of hearing what she had hoped, the mirror tells her that there is one who is fairer than she. She becomes jealous and wants to rid herself of this competition.
Maybe the Queen's problem is that she asks the wrong question or has the wrong mirror. I have seen beautiful people who believe they are very unattractive. I tell them, 'get a new mirror!'
When we look in the mirror we may hear that there is a Snow White who is prettier, smarter, more talented, and stronger than we are. We may reason like the Queen, that as long as there is one better or more advantaged, we can't feel worthwhile.
'Mom liked you better than me.' 'He got more than I did. It's not fair that he got what I deserved.' These are expressions of a type of jealousy that arises when we think we have been treated unfairly or deprived in some way. We feel this jealousy when we didn't get invited to a party or when someone else received recognition for something we thought we deserved. I call this disadvantaged jealousy.
Where does some of this jealousy come from? Often it comes from our parents trying to motivate us by comparing us with others, 'Why can't you study and make good grades like your brother?' 'Look how your sister behaves, why can't you be as nice as she is?' The problem is the standard of judgment is not our potential but another person's.
A disturbing thought is that this dynamic does not remain in childhood but follows us into our adult years. We continue comparing ourselves, our talent, and our success with others. How well they do becomes a statement about us. We compare ourselves with others to see if life is coming out even - if we are getting our fair share.
The truth is when we measure ourselves against others, we will never feel good about ourselves because we are using the wrong standard of measurement.
One result of comparing ourselves to others is that we become competitive with them. Competition can kill closeness in relationships. How can others trust us when we are always competing with and trying to outdo them? How can we feel close when we are jealous of their accomplishments? How can there be closeness with someone when we do not allow ourselves to celebrate their gifts?
Ideally, we would want to think that Snow White can be as pretty as she is without considering it a reflection on our beauty. We can still feel good about ourselves even if there is a Snow White who is smarter, stronger, or thinner than we are!
Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through www.amazon.com.
Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700
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