There is a certain type of question that I hear almost daily, and I have decided to divert conversations, politely decline to answer or, in extreme cases, simply walk away if asked.
“What did you get on that test/assignment?”
When someone asks the question I mentioned above, someone always loses. It’s a seemingly harmless question, but one that can take a person’s confidence and shatter it into pieces.
It’s the comparison game. We all play it. Who’s prettier? Who’s stronger? Who’s smarter? Who’s uglier? Who’s weakest? Who’s stupid? Usually we ask the positive ones: “Who’s prettier?” But in doing so, we also answer “Who’s uglier?” Why in the world are we doing this to ourselves? To each other?
When I’ve been asked about my marks in the past, I’ve felt either one of two ways in the end: Pleased with myself or completely dejected. The reality is that I don’t really want to know what you got on your midterm. I do want to know how you felt about it, but please don’t tell me your mark. One of us will be suddenly filled with a sense of relief and victory whilst the other is suddenly thrown into a pit of self-loathing and a sense of hopeless stupidity. I’m tired of it. I don’t want to feel either way. Either way, no one wins.
I purposely stopped weighing myself a couple of years ago because I don’t want to know what I weigh. What I do want to know is that I’m healthy. How do I measure that? Not by numbers, but by my lifestyle. Am I staying active? Am I eating well? Do I feel happy, well-rested and healthy?I don’t want to compare myself to someone else’s numbers. I don’t ask another person how much they weigh.
Because one of us, regardless of how content we may have been before the question, will undoubtedly leave with a mountain of new questions. “Why don’t I weigh the same? Does that mean I’m fat? Does that mean I’m ugly?”
The comparison game is the same with school. I don’t want to measure my intelligence by comparing it with yours. I want to learn all that I can, and measure my intelligence by my pursuit of knowledge. I want to compare myself with myself. I want to compete with myself, to be the best that I can be. The only academic standard that I need to meet is my own. You should meet yours. We can study together to help each other learn more, to grow more and to be all that we can be. But let’s learn and grow together so that we can learn to be better versions of ourselves, not better than each other because then no one grows.
“Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man… It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition is gone, pride is gone.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity