By Vuthy Pisey,
To families and society that like to compare
From the moment we were born, you clearly know that no one is exactly the same. Even twins were born at different time. Our faces, genetics and parents are all different from birth on and we accept it. So, how could you expect us to have the same lives and all be the same?
When we were young, you liked to compare us to the neighbors, and especially our cousins. You told us that they were more obedient, clever, mature, friendly, better in school and liked by everyone, the complete opposite of us who only liked to play, did not study hard, were unsociable and achieved nothing.
In a classroom, we were once again compared to classmates on our academic performance and attitudes. We were measured, graded and labeled as the most outstanding or the weakest students against a one-size-fits-all standard. Just because some were good in mathematics, chemistry and physics, and did everything as told, they were praised as disciplined, capable and highly-intelligent. Just because we did not like and were not good at those subjects , but loved to draw, paint and explore new subjects which were not taught in school, we were blamed for wasting our time, disappointing our parents and being rebellious students.
At the end of the academic year, you would compare and officially grade us, and the result sheet would be posted publicly for the whole school to see. This way, everyone would know who got the best grade and who got the least best. Undoubtedly, those who got a good grade would be congratulated, admired and expected to have a bright future. And for us, bad grades meant we were incapable, and would not have a promising future. No one cared about the reasons behind our performance. Only grades mattered.
When we finished high school and eventually managed to get in to university and study a major we liked, you wanted us to choose the major our cousins or neighbors pursued instead. You wanted us to be like them – an outstanding student, graduating with honors and finding a well-paid job in big company.
Now that we are growing up to be an adult, having a job and life plan of our own, you still don’t stop the comparisons. You go on talking about how much money this or that person makes, how awesome their career is, how fortunate they are to get married at a young age with a good partner – it’s a never ending list. Us, who work so hard just to earn a little money, but have not found a girlfriend or boyfriend yet, will never reach your expectations, and in your eyes, will never become the person you want us to be.
You may compare us to other people because you love and worry about us, and you want us to be a good person and have a glorious life like they do. Or you may think that by comparing us to others, it will make us want to improve ourselves and learn from others.
But do you realize these never ending comparisons make us feel like? Have you ever realized that those comparisons cause jealousy, arguments and hatred among people? Being compared with other people all the time makes us feel inferior, depressed and question our ability and value. As a result, we don’t have the courage to do what we dream of and we start to be isolated from family and society.
When you tell us how great other people are, it puts us under pressure to try to catch up with other people’s timelines, to doubt our own worth and eventually to force ourselves to be someone who we do not like. Comparison does nothing but kill our relationships, confidence and dreams.
Just like you do not expect a fish to fly, you cannot expect a giraffe to swim. We are born different and we are going to live differently. We have different childhoods, resources, challenges and experiences. Society should not and must not use the same standard to judge the capability and skills of everyone because each individual has unique talents and abilities that cannot be compared or measured against others.
For that reason alone, developed countries like Singapore have abandoned the grading system in classes. Instead of comparing themselves with one another which cause hatred and jealousy, kids are taught to compare with no one but themselves. They will ask the kids to compare who they were yesterday to who they are today. This makes people want to be a better version of themselves and believe that they can make it happen without competing with each other. That means you can shine without putting down other people’s light.
We know that every parent wants the best for their children, and society plays a very important role to develop people’s skills and capability. However, you have to accept the fact that everyone is different, and that makes us unique, doesn’t it?
We are different and that makes us who we are. We know what we are doing. We have our destiny to walk on, challenges to conquer and our own life to live. If you really love and care about us, stop comparing us and instead try to understand and believe in us for who we are, not who you want us to be. You will see the goodness and strength in us, and feel proud of who we really are. No one is better or worse. We are all good in our own way.
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.