Advice column by Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC.
Tim White, PhD, LPC, NCC offers advice on family planning and parenting, LGBT issues, disability issues, education and work issues, relationships, ethics and "unusual" social issues. Send questions to Tim for future columns through his website.
Single male, 20’s artist: I’m constantly comparing myself to different people with different abilities and mine are never as good. My parents and extended family always compared me to my superstar older brother who can do no wrong, and I guess I picked it up from them because I’m constantly looking around me at people who’re better than me at work, more talented artists, better looking, smarter, make more money, and so on. It never ends, and I feel crappy by comparison everywhere I go. Why am I not better than somebody at something, or is it me?
- Less Than
Comparisons are for prices, not people.
Repeat that, and even meditate on it when you have the time. Comparing oneself to others will pave a lonely road that goes one way… to misery. When you consider the myriad of human personalities, aptitudes, talents, interests and factor in some random luck, no one person is the same as another. We all have gifts differing. You have some, too. You simply cannot see them because you are so intensely focused on everyone around you and preoccupied with envy.
You may benefit from exploring mindfulness and meditation. Take a little time to get to know your own self. Find out what truly brings you joy in life, by exploring things that catch your fancy and then go with what feels right. Perhaps you did that with art, whatever medium you chose, but you became distracted by others’ work. Get back, or go for the first time, to that place where you lose yourself in creativity, and experience something fulfilling without the constant voice of appraisal in your head. Try some new things, too. Keep that good feeling alive by taking the time to immerse yourself in that thing you are passionate about; passionate enough to practice and never stop learning more about it. Will you be the best or the most rewarded for that thing? I cannot say. But you may not care about making comparisons anymore.
Male, 18, gay and went on vacation every summer with best friend since 8 years old but I developed feelings for him a few years ago and recently made a pass, got rejected because he’s confirmed straight but now his parents want me to go to Canary Islands with them all and he wants me to turn it down so he won’t be uncomfortable sharing a room. He also doesn’t want me to tell his parents why although they are accepting and would not care. I know they will question me about cancelling, though.
Is this a trick? Are you really expecting me to try to talk you out of going to the Canary Islands? In all seriousness, you should go or at least try. A best friend for a decade probably does not really care if the other is gay, or if he does he may be struggling with issues of his own that prevent him from being his usual good company. He is still talking to you if he asked you to break tradition. You can do that, but I do not see the purpose in keeping secrets. His parents know you, maybe better than you think. They may be relieved when you finally come out!
I hope your best friend is willing to hear you describe just what his friendship means to you, much more than a physical relationship you never had anyway. Reassure him if you must that you will change separately or sleep on the couch or whatever minor accommodations he needs to feel comfortable. He should recognize quickly that he was being unreasonable and has nothing to fear, and he can even keep his best friend while his ego remains intact. If he is unable to accept your company now because of an ever-so-slight misunderstanding, you may have already been growing apart as you continue to grow up. But hopefully not so go, go, go and send us a postcard!
Money Over Memories
I am a female, 30s and married. I recently lost my father. My father had a rare vintage car that used to belong to my mother, who died much earlier and he left it to me, so now my two sisters are fighting with me about it even though they received a fair share in cash. Dad seldom drove the car and kept it like a museum showpiece in a special garage.
My husband and I want a family more than anything, but cannot afford the IVF our doctor recommends. Selling this car would pay for our medical treatment, but my sisters are calling me selfish and say we should keep the car in the family because Dad loved it so much. Am I being selfish?
- Money Over Memories
Hi Money Over Memories,
I am sorry for you loss and if it helps, you do not have to choose. It seems in this case, you may have both. Your memories are not chained to a hunk of metal on wheels in your garage, and if it does not give either of you the thrill it afforded your father, it absolutely will delight some other collector out there who will baby it and maintain it and show it off; that car will be loved again.
You and your sisters will likely have plenty of photos and heirlooms, possibly with little to no monetary value, that bring priceless memories back. And still more memories will be kept even safer in your brain and in your heart. That machine on wheels is not necessary to remember or honor your father, who would probably be pleased to know it helped you bring his own grandchild into the world and realize your dream of having your own family. Material things, especially large and impractical things like a rare automobile that needs considerable upkeep, are just things that come and go. Family is forever.
Editor’s Note: The opinions offered in this blog are the author's alone. Tim White, and any experts he may consult and/or quote in responses to letters, will never provide medical or psychological advice, diagnoses, treatment, or counseling of any kind. General advice, opinions, and suggestions may be offered with no obligation on the part of readers to accept or act upon the content published within this column. Anyone in immediate crisis and/or mental/physical distress should call 911 or related resources of assistance.
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