“Comparison is the thief of joy”
Through my study and practice of Positive psychology isn’t all about rainbows and unicorns, it’s more about where we choose to place our focus. Do we choose to think on the positive aspects of our lives or focus on the lack? While we all want to be the embodiment of peace married with joy, there is always a sense of lack. I feel that much of this lack comes from the marketing of our society; companies selling us products that will make us more, more refined, more youthful or shinier, essentially telling us that we are not enough. So we buy products, and lifestyles that give the illusion that we are more, more tough, more feminine, more of the prescribed remedy for our unhealthy lack. Big business isn’t the only one to blame, political entities, press, religious organizations, social groups and cultures are all complicit in making us feel like we are less than.
Seeing the unique beauty and letting go
As the years come and go, I chat with friends who are acutely aware of their own lack, they are feeling behind, or inadequate. My friend’s son recently graduated from high school with plans to attend the local community college. She spent weeks worried about how her son wasn’t fulfilling her hopes of going to an Ivy League school. I witnessed her share a list of the names of her friend’s children and the schools they would be attending next fall on several occasions. I finally sat down and chatted with her about this, I asked her the same questions I ask everyone who is stuck in this mind set, who says? “Barb, who says that Michael should be attending Yale in the fall?”, “is he ready for that?”, “would he be successful?” Her response was totally natural, “well everyone else’s kids are and all of the kids from his school are going straight to university, I went to university; everyone does”. I said, “Barbara, Michael is not everyone”. What I failed to explain earlier is Barbara’s son has Autism, if you met him, you might never know it. That is because she spent 15 years working with behavior therapists and other professionals to start early interventions that have contributed to his immense success. I say this because I work with students with autism on a regular basis and comparatively, he is a huge success; he has fully participated in society, and never been isolated as disabled.
Embracing what comes next
I shared with Barbara some of my experiences with clients, about their social skills, their ability to maintain composure in public and private spaces, their varied response to stimulus, their relationships with family and friends, fixations, needs and limitations. I talked about all of the ways that Michael was high functioning and the strides that he had made in the short 7 years that I have known him. Barbara later thanked me, she is obviously not excited that her son has taken a different path than others his age and that is not going to change. So, she has chosen to help him on his own path and change her focus.
About the author: Rachael Ruiz is a student at Chaminade University. She is insatiably curious, loves audio books and the beach. She hopes in the future to work in women’s advocacy.