All men are created equal. I have heard that phrase more times than I could possibly count. But lately I have become unsure of its truthfulness. The dictionary tells us that the word equal means ‘a person considered to be the same as another.’ As it is clearly impossible for one person to be the same as another, I must conclude that all people are not equal. Yet I also have observed and believe with fervor that no person is superior nor inferior to another. These two statements together appear to create an impasse—no one is better or worse, but neither is everyone equal, so how is the value of a man measured? Here is the word of truth that must be understood: the comparison of one man to another as a determination of worth is simply and completely ludicrous. My exploration over this truth began with my invitation to the Sterling Scholar Award Ceremony my senior year of high school. The Sterling Scholar program is a prestigious scholarship opportunity for high school students in Utah. My invitation to the ceremony was preceded by a lengthy application process including a detailed portfolio and two rounds of interviews. When I had made it through the interviews and arrived at the final ceremony, I found an evening jam-packed with flawless 4.0 GPA’s and perfect 36 ACT scores. 17 year olds who working as CEOs of their own profit and non-profit companies. High schoolers who had taught themselves multiple languages just for the fun of it. Teenagers who have seen and impacted more parts of the world then most of us will ever hope to. Not to mention the thousands of hours of service they gave to meaningful causes that I had never even heard of. That night a winner for each category of the scholarship would be announced on stage in front of a large audience and on live television.
Now by this point you must be thinking, ‘Emily, what on earth did you do to get invited to such a prestigious ceremony?” Well, believe me I was thinking the same thing. Even though all my life I have strived to work hard and do my best, I have accomplished nothing as noteworthy as those with whom I shared the stage with that night. And because that fact was so clearly obvious, many people saw a need to comfort and reassure me that I had talents and abilities that the declared winners of that ceremony did not and so I should not feel bad about myself because I left the building empty handed. These well-meaning friends were playing with the see-saw of self-comparison. Let me explain. Picture in your mind little ole me on one end of a see saw, and the English Sterling Scholar winner on the other side. The winner’s scholastic accomplishments have lifted her high in the air while leaving my butt stuck to the ground. My friends and family hurried to assured me of my own talents in an effort to hoist me off the ground and sit balanced with the winner. They were trying to show that our worth as individuals is the same. But it’s not. We are distinct, separate, unattached people who cannot be compared. My worth is completely independent of another’s strengths, or weaknesses for that matter. As with all truth, this is perfectly applicable to the entire human family.
It was this revelation that caused me not to be disappointed when I left the ‘loser’ the night of the ceremony. Rather I had overwhelming feelings of contentment, satisfaction, and happiness that I had been robbed of during the strenuous application process. As I sat under blazing lights, in front of TV cameras and hundreds of people, as I was judged next to some of the brightest students Utah has to offer, my repeating, and perhaps a little paradoxical, impression was this: I am enough. Everyone in the room is enough just because of who they are. Our achievements are not belittled nor removed because of the actions of another. I believe I am enough because I am me. I believe the only person it is even possible to compare yourself to is you.
Guest Post by Emily Abel