The Yomiuri ShimbunDear Troubleshooter:
I’m a married female company employee in my 30s, and I have a younger sister who’s also married. I feel discouraged when I think about the large differences in our living standards.
Both my husband and I are nonregular employees.
We can’t afford to have a child because we need to repay our debt that accumulated when we were out of work. We also need to support my mother-in-law financially, which is also a large burden for us.
However, my sister and her husband are both regular employees. They have their own house in central Tokyo and have two children.
Also, they probably won’t have to care for her husband’s parents as they live on their own.
They look so well-off that they make me feel miserable whenever I see them at memorial services for our deceased relatives and on other occasions.
But they never brag about their advantaged life. Instead, they’re so kind that they seem to be concerned about how we’re getting on in life.
I know philosophically I shouldn’t be self-deprecating by comparing our life and theirs needlessly. But their bright life and our bleak life are so distinctively different that it almost seems comical to me.
How can I deal with this?
Dear Ms. E:
You and your younger sister grew up in the same family environment, and you both know each other’s characteristics very well. This probably makes you resent the difference between your life and her life.
When we say “other people,” we often tend to consider them distant and having nothing to do with us. But actually, people who strike us most for their “otherness” are our family and relatives.
We don’t care about the differences of our living standards from somebody who is not related to us. However, if they are closely related by blood, we can’t help but be conscious of even small things. As a result, we end up wondering why we are so different in everything.
So why not stop comparing yourself with your sister?
Consider your family and close relatives as total strangers when it comes to this, and think about other people, too. Some people are placed in quite difficult situations. Others enjoy living every day, even though their life isn’t easy. Still others are deeply hurt over unimportant things. By thinking of these people, you will hopefully recognize people live various lives. Their lives can abruptly change by a mere accident, too.
“There are various lives.” When you accept this, you will probably find it silly to compare yourself with others. Even if you feel happy making such a comparison, it won’t last long, as you can feel completely defeated when you see someone who looks happier than you.
Kiyokazu Washida, philosopher