Thursday, July 15, 2010

On cousins and comparisons

I recently met a person I am sure many of you know:

“Oh, you are going to Paris for a vacation? I didn’t know people still went there. It’s very 2006, don’t you think? But I’m sure you’ll have a great time. When you’re there you should make sure to see – oh, wait, they don’t let just anybody in there, do they?”

“Personally, I think buying books is unnecessary nowadays. I just buy them on my iPad. You do have an iPad, don’t you? Oh, I see… Well, I suppose a Kindle isn’t too bad either. Oh, you don’t even have a..? I admire you, I really do – standing up against evolution like that.”

“Master’s Degree? Yeah, that’s a lot of work. I remember when I finished my PhD while I had an internship and simultaneously wrote a book, I could hardly find the time to work out more than four-five times a week. Of course my volunteer work at the animal shelter took a lot of my time as well.”

“I can’t tell you how happy I am to live on the West Side of the city. It’s so much nicer here, you don’t risk running into drug dealers and criminals. You live on the East Side, you say? Ah… Well, I’m sure it’s – charming.”

“In my field of work… Oh, sorry, am I bothering you with details flying over your head?”

I am exaggerating (slightly. Miss Done It All hadn’t written a book). But she acted this way all night, making me (and many others in the party) feel very uncomfortable. No matter what we had or hadn’t done, she had done it better. Rationally I can compare myself to her and know that I don’t actually come out of it too poorly, but it is difficult being rational about things like this. She made me feel inferior, even if I am not.

The Norwegian poet/songwriter Alf Prøysen wrote a song called Æille har ett syskjenbån på Gjøvik [Everyone has a cousin at Gjøvik – Gjøvik is the regional centre to his hometown]. In the song, the main character is passing through life’s many milestones (slight digression, but hey, it’s me, I’m not only allowed, I’m encouraged to digress. Why is it called milestone in English, but milepæl [mile pole] in Norwegian. Did we use poles and you stones? Or are Norwegians merely more fascinated with poles? We do have a number of famous pole explorers, after all… But let’s return to the song…)

The main character is passing through life’s many milestones, but every time he achieves something, his cousin has done something better. In the end, the main character dies, and the cousin merely sends flowers. I guess there is a bitter irony in that – the main character finally outdid his cousin – but since he wasn’t around to gloat I am not sure how much use it did him...

I think it is part of human nature to compare ourselves to others. But why is it so that some chose comparisons where they come out as the winner, while many of us always look to the impossible? I am definitely in the latter category. In a way I am glad, because it allows me to strive for higher achievements. But at the same time, it would be nice to sometimes feel content. Ideally I wish I didn’t compare myself or my own achievements to anyone else at all – I shouldn’t have to compete with anyone but myself. But since I seem incapable of doing that – why do I always have to pick the ones that make me feel like I am worth nothing?

As I said, rationally I am aware that the cousins in Gjøvik out there are not good choices for comparison. If you insist on using them as measurement, you should at the very least be aware that it only is to enhance your own performance. Even though I know this, though, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable around people such as Miss Done It All. Why isn’t my brain and my heart communicating on this?


welcome to my world of poetry said...

There is always someone in everyone's life who has done or has something better than you,
One can't buy expereience or respect, If someone acts that way to me I just smile and say "Oh nice for you".

Have a good day.

L'Aussie said...

Made me laugh in an ironic way. It is annoying when people butt into your sentence to go one better. Not the best conversationalists and probably means they feel insecure or somesuch..:)

The King of Gjøvik said...

I, of course, designed Gjøvik while doing my PhD, writing my Norwegian epic "Thor in Tights", and having relations with over nine harlots.

But your friend sounds like a faker. Justifying her insecurities by shameless public bragging. Chances are she is not all that, sister.

Keep up your own excellent work and ignore this disgraceful wench! And visit me in Gjøvik sometime.

Powdered Toast Man said...

I hate people that thing they are better than everybody. I like being humble and modest except when I play board games.

I mentioned your blog in my post yesterday. I wonder if you got an extra follower or comment.

p.s. the post involves giraffes.

RosieC said...

I agree with our dear King here. Whoever that person is, she's probably terribly insecure, and possibly exaggerating. If she's not exaggerating, than that's quite possibly all she has in life. Remember that you have a loving family and good friends and something you're passionate about. All she has is a PhD, but that doesn't necessarily love you or fulfill you.

PS--Near my husband's family in Illinois there's a car dealership called Gjøvik's. :) Completely random, but, hey, thought I'd share anyway.

Piedmont Writer said...

I just ran into my own Miss Done it All a few weeks ago. I came away from it feeling very insecure, and I am not generally insecure.

I think I've decided that the whole expercience of trying to be someone I'm not and proving I'm worthy anyway, is just too taxing on my spirit and the only thing to do in that case, is to not ever see that cousin again. It's not worth it to get upset over someone so foolish.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

People like that are annoying. They have to top everything you do rather than share in the joy of what you've accomplished. Actually, they are the ones who are really insecure.

Sarah Callejo said...

Ooooh, I find those people so annoying and there comes a time when they lose their credibility. Can the really be better at everything?
I like your sense of humour.

Jemi Fraser said...

People like that drive me batty! I've taught students who have those issues, and it's hard to get them to realize this is NOT who they want to be when they grow up.

Cruella Collett said...

Yvonne - thank you for those kind words. Your tactic sounds like the best solution.

L'Aussie - so true. I suspect that this girl was actually quite insecure, but I hate her way of showing it!

The King of Gjøvik (really?) - and a fine job you did on designing Gjøvik too! (I passed there just yesterday - would have stopped had I known I could visit royalties!)

Powdered Toast Man - and what a very nice thing to do too! I've been away for a few days, so I haven't kept up with all my favourite blogs, but I will head over to yours now and check it out! Yay giraffes! Thank you! (And now that you mention it, I did get a new follower yesterday, but I don't really know if she came from your blog or not)

Rosie - Gjøvik's huh? With the Ø and everything? Wow! And thank you - I think you're probably right :)

Piedmont - you're right - life is too short to get worked up over these things!

Alex - yeah, true. I guess we all should stop comparing ourselves to others, and simply be happy for whatever we (and they) have accomplished.

Sarah - why thank you (I am glad that my humour shines through even in the serious topics - makes them much easier to handle). And she probably wasn't better at everything. She just sounded that way.

Jemi - they are lucky they have a great teacher to tell them that, then :) Thanks for dooing your part in trying to rid the world of the Done It All's!

LTM said...

what? You don't have an iPad??? AND you're going to Paris...!


LOL--j/k. I'd love to visit Paris... '06 or anytime~ sigh.

I think they used to call people like that "bores." I wish they/we still did b/c isn't that exactly what such people are attempting NOT to be? Galloping bores? ;o)

good stuff.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing this. I know someone, or three, just like that. They always have to one-up me. It takes effort sometimes not to let it get to me but when I sit back and think of all the things I have to be grateful for, the resentment dissipates. "All misery lies in comparison."- G

Falen (Sarah) said...

...i was not aware that there were actual people like that in the world.
how unfortunate for everyone else

Hart Johnson said...

"Why is it called milestone in English, but milepæl [mile pole] in Norwegi" Because in NORWAY, a mileSTONE would be buried in snow much of the year and invisible... you GOTTA use a pole!

Mari-just remember that while they might one up the rest of us around every turn, NOBODY LIKES THEM. That reassures me when I look longingly at the achievements (and keeps me in line when I manage to achieve... I am much more an 'encourage, if I could do it, you can too' gal)

Palindrome said...

sigh. I've met a few of those people. Why can't you just whip up an entire Italian meal from scratch and read all the books, work fulltime, workout on a daily basis and have a spotless house? My answer: I don't know cause I'm not a bitch? Haha! I kid. Seriously though, we all have different priorities in life and things we would much rather and do spend our time on. You want to spend the night cooking and cleaning? I'd rather go to the library for three hours and eat a bowl of cereal while reading. To each their own.

RosieC said...

Yup. With the Ø and everything. I haven't studied much Germanic, so I don't know how it's supposed to be pronounced, but I'm sure it's not "JoeVick's", which is what it sounds like out there. Haha.

Marjorie said...

Mari, These people really do have serious issues with themselves and the world in relation to themeselves. I have a relly hard time believing half of what one of those type of people say. Take it all with a grain of salt and know that you are an awesome person.

Boonsong said...

Norway needs mile poles instead of stones because they're taller and therefore can be seen easily when the snow is deep.

Re Comparing yourself to others: Everyone does this, including practically perfect me. I always compare myself to Idi Amin, King Ethelred the Unready, and George Bush - that way I constantly feel good about myself.

I hope that the above is helpful.

All the best, Boonsong

Cruella Collett said...

LTM - they are bores! I should have told Miss Done It All that!

Georgina - that is a good strategy. I try to do that too, but it isn't always easy!

Falen - they make for great characters, though... I should consider that...

Tami - heh - you of all people should have picked up on the pole innuendo. Ah, yes, snow sounds like an explanation indeed. And you're right (nody likes them) - this discussion proves that!

Palindrome - true. I wouldn't want to be this person, so I guess I should be grateful that I'm not, eh?

Rosie - well, if the pronunciation is anything like the original, the GJ should sound a little something like the Y in 'young', and the Ø sounds pretty much exactly like a French E (or close to the start of the English sound "er....")

Marjorie - and so are you! :)

Boonsong - haha, those are good choices, indeed. I think I would prefer even Miss Done It All to the company of any of those...

Ocean Girl said...

I don't know why people like to compare, although I can't say I've met anyone like that. But your post was funny and I enjoyed it. I love the comments too.

Cruella Collett said...

Ocean Girl - I know, aren't these commenters the best? So supportive :) And you're lucky you've never met someone like that. Or perhaps you are simply dealing better with the situation than I did, so you don't notice them if you do meet them?

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