Avoiding the Folly of Comparison
Being in a power wheelchair, getting fatigued more easily than the average person, and walking with a waddle-like gait are a few bullet points on a long list of Duchenne muscular dystrophy symptoms that make me self-conscious.
But more than that, these realities of living with a rare disease cause me to compare myself to able-bodied people in my life more often than I’d like. Judging myself against friends who are dealing with completely different challenges may seem normal, but I’ve found it puts me in a foul mood, generates feelings of jealousy, and discounts the things I have already accomplished.
I especially struggled with this in high school, as puberty caused my friends’ bodies to change, grow facial hair, and get stronger, whereas because of long-term steroid use, I stayed the same. It would annoy me to no end when I was offered a kids menu as a high schooler, or people were incredulous that I was old enough to drive.
My peers would tower over me, and I felt like the innocent child in the background. I’m so thankful that I was never bullied because of the difference between how I looked and how they looked, but it was still difficult.
Looking back, it was completely unfair to subject myself to the standards of an able-bodied world. I should have been focused on how well I was doing despite a terrible diagnosis.
Comparison has never gotten me anywhere. There’s no changing who I am, and it took a long time for me to realize that.
As much as I hate to admit it, I do the same thing at 24, though now it’s looking at the other life benchmarks that people strive for — having a high-octane, high-paying job, buying a house, and getting married.
I know that stuff isn’t important in the least, but I still find my mind wandering, hoping I can be like the person on Instagram who seems to have it all. That kind of thought process is counterproductive, and it makes me feel useless even though I graduated from the University of Southern California, had my first job out of college at The Washington Post, and now work multiple jobs.
That’s the real danger of comparing myself with others. It makes me forget the success I’ve already had. I focus on my physical inability rather than my sense of humor, caring personality, or writing prowess.
Trying to measure up to someone else never yields a positive result. “There will always be someone smarter, better looking, and a more prolific writer,” my mom has told me in the past. “But there will always be someone worse off.”
So, whenever I see something that makes me feel inadequate or think, “I wish I were them,” I remember to count my blessings and be grateful for the country I live in, the supportive family and friends I have, and to continue in God’s plan for me.
There are times when everything feels like it’s falling down around me, and I believe I’ll never come close to where my friends are in life. In those moments, I need to ask myself: Do I want to be where they are? Or, have I been placed in a situation where I can inspire the people around me to overcome adversity?
Duchenne is terrible, and I wish I never had it. I accept the reality that I have it every morning. Lamenting that I’m unable to work as hard or make enough money or have a girlfriend means that I’m applying myself to the arbitrary standard we’ve all set for one another.
We as Duchenne patients are doing no favors to ourselves or the rest of the world by participating in the folly of comparison. Do the best you can with the body you’ve been given. That’s all we can ask of ourselves.
Note: Muscular Dystrophy News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.