Have you ever been in a car, stopped and sitting in traffic, with a vehicle on your left and a vehicle in front of you? If yes, you've probably experienced the feeling of rolling backwards. Why does this happen?

The most popular answer to this question on Quora, an online platform for questions and answers, was provided by John Harris, and he explains: The feeling of rolling backwards in a car is due to your brain creating a false reference point; on optical illusion in real life. Your brain subconsciously uses the vehicles around you as spatial reference points. Your forward/backward position in the world is pegged to your relationship to the vehicles around you. When the vehicle in front of you doesn't move but the vehicles around you move forward, your brain sees its reference points moving forward which means you are rolling BACKWARDS. Or so it may appear.

How interesting, right? We use the surrounding vehicles as spacial reference points and it is entirely possible that in our minds, we see ourselves as moving backwards when others near us move forwards, when in reality this is completely false; it is an optical illusion. We are not really moving backwards; it just appears that way when others move forwards.

If you think about it, many of us think this way in general, even when we are not sitting in traffic with a vehicle in front of us and a vehicle next to us. We have a tendency to use other people as spatial reference points, and when they move forward, accomplish and progress in life, we view ourselves as rolling backwards. We – falsely and mistakenly – think that our forward/backward position in life is pegged to our relationship to the other people around us. But this, my friends, is a false reference point; it is an optical illusion. 

We do not become less when someone else moves forward, and we do not become more when someone else moves backward. We only move forward/backward in reference to ourselves. We compete against no one but ourselves. 

This is one of the novel ideas behind the words in this week’s Parshah, ויותר יעקב לבדו – Yaakov was left alone. In his battle with the Angel of Eisav, the Torah describes Yaakov as being in the realm of לבדו, alone. It is a message for us, the readers, that when it comes to life, we are fighting “alone,” not in competition with anyone else other than our own selves. Another person’s achievements, accomplishments, and failures in life do not by any means dictate our current state of being.

Let us take this message and become the best individuals that we can possibly be.