How do you feel when other people’s children excel at something? When they achieve the highest score ever, say, in a national maths competition, join a football academy for outstanding players or win a prize for their musical talents?
Are you over the moon? Genuinely delighted for them? Or do you feel a tad miffed?
I admit I struggle to be thrilled in such situations. And I don’t think I’m the only one.
Why are we so competitive with those in our immediate circle? Why are we (let’s admit it) jealous of their successes?
I blame natural selection.
Natural selection is happening all the time, all around us. It’s happening to us. And some primitive part of our brain knows that. So, when faced with evidence that our family may not be up there with the best, our instinct for survival kicks in.
Luckily, we tend not to kill our adversaries the way we might have done a few hundred millennia ago. Instead, we do the modern equivalent which is to feel jolly cross when they get one over us.
I suppose this competitive lark must be a good thing for the human race in the long run. But for you and me, here and now, it’s rubbish. It makes us feel crap.
So let’s forget the battle for gene supremacy. When you hear that next door’s kid has been signed by Manchester United, just be happy.
(Even though we’ll all know it’s a fluke, down to pushy parents, bound not to last, etc, etc…)