The Burden of Being the Best

· March 14, 2017

Being the best at something isn’t always as positive as people think. People who excel at something can end up being the object of rejection, jokes, and even abuse. We all know examples of children who are excellent students, but instead of being admired for it, they end up being victims of bullying by their peers.

We’ve all seen how people who achieve great success aren’t always supported by the people around them. Sometimes they become the object of envy, which is expressed as criticism or scorn for what they do. Sometimes other people even end up using them for their own interests.

“Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”

-William Faulkner-

There are many men and women who have been the best in their field at some point, but who at the same time had to struggle with loneliness and rejection. Why does this happen? Can it be changed?

When being the best implies more obligations

Adriana worked at an educational center at a great program for abandoned children. Her performance was excellent, and so at the end of her first year, she received some baffling news: they were going to give her 30 more children to take care of. “You are the best, so we trust that you can do it well.” But they didn’t pay her more or give her any other incentive. As a reward, they had actually punished her.


This also happens at home. If the older sibling is more skilled at drawing, the parents are more likely to ask them to help their siblings with their drawings, and the same with other skills like language and math. If the younger sibling is more responsible, they’ll spend the rest of their life assuming the duties that demand more responsibility.

woman with butterfly crown

You see it often in mothers. They work outside the home, work inside the home, have everything ready when needed, and if one day they fail, the complaints start to appear. They are supposed to do everything perfectly and on time, and as a reward for their dedication and persistence, they receive more demands.

Rejected for being the best

At school, there are also interesting ways of treating people who are the best. They’re told that they’re a nerd, and this is assumed to be a deficiency instead of a virtue. If the best in the class doesn’t help all of their classmates, they’ll be highly rejected. If they do help them, they’re just a useful idiot to others. It’s as though no matter how you look at it, being the best has no way out.

Things are no different at work. The person who knows the most or can do the most must always be there, ready to lend a hand to others. Otherwise, they’d be seen as unfriendly and end up being discriminated against and isolated.

This doesn’t just happen with the most intelligent or skilled. The most responsible also end up doing all the work in a group or team. The most understanding end up trying to mediate all the conflicts or become everyone’s shoulder to cry on. The bravest must perform all the tasks that require bravery, as if they were immune. And if these people don’t do what’s expected of them, they’re accused of being selfish.

man in bottle

Is there an escape?

Without a doubt, being the best at something is a burden. While possessing superior abilities, skills, or knowledge entails responsibilities, it’s also true that many people take advantage of this to impose additional burdens on the people who know the most, can do the most, or want the most.

In fact, some people who always try to excel at everything, who never refuse the challenge of doing so, end up feeling guilty if they don’t respond to the demands of others. They learn to believe that they should make up for other people’s shortcomings and limitations, so they end up overburdening themselves with responsibilities and becoming destructively self-demanding.

hand releasing hot air balloon

The escape is learning to set limits. Every gift is meant to be shared, but everyone else is responsible for compensating in some way for the favors that they do or the help that they give. Let’s hope that being the best at something doesn’t just bring more obligations and responsibilities, but that it’s also compensated with gratitude and consideration.

The Experience Itself Is the Best Teaching