Monday, June 6, 2011
when you compare, you lose
For the past several months I have been struggling with a tendency to compare myself to others. I hate to admit that, but there it is. I suppose you could pin my comparisons on my childhood—children who grow up in an alcoholic home tend to feel incredibly isolated in their problems on account of the fact that they were taught to keep the secrets of their family locked inside themselves as deeply as possible. Of course, holding that truth inside you means you remain unaware that other people are experiencing the same thing (if not worse) so it's very easy to believe that everyone else is happy and their lives unfold with ease.
Given that intense conditioning, I still tend to isolate myself in my problems when and if I slip out of my healthy practices (as I have lately). And I must say, the internet has intensified this problem for me. Our lives have become so (seemingly) transparent and documented, what with Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and the millions of others sites on which we have an online presence. It's easier than ever to compare yourself to others, because there is this false sense that you know what people's lives are like. I'll admit, to me, it often seems like everyone is out living these exciting, adventure-filled lives, enjoying their career success and happy children while I'm at home in my pajamas doing nothing. Yet I rarely stop and think "that's exactly how all of them are viewing my life." This is where one simple phrase has saved me: you can't compare your insides to other people's outsides.
Haven't all of us been trained to put up a good front? We don't walk into work a hopping mess, mascara streaming down our cheeks as we cry about our breakup during a conference room meeting, do we? We don't tell the stranger in the elevator who asks "how are you?" that we're depressed about all our debt and plummeting credit score, do we? And we don't log on to Facebook to announce we're going through a tumultuous period in our marriage, to post pictures of our unhappy events, or to tell 500 acquaintances that we can't get pregnant, do we? [Of course, there are times when we do in fact do these things, but it's not the cultural norm.] But, here I am looking at everyone's outsides and comparing them to my insides even though all the common sense and intellect within me tells me it's futile and nonsensical.
I suppose I just wanted to put my insides out there today in the spirit of knowing that my own life often appears like an easy, breezy adventure. So, here are my insides: I struggle to keep the focus on myself, I need to go to my support meetings twice a week to remain sane, I need to fall in love with myself (again) because I am crippled by my current lack of self-esteem (how/when did I fall out of love?!), I clearly need to work on my gratitude practices because my life is really a dream and I am tragically missing it right now, I need to accept myself and go easy on myself, I need to stop measuring my success and artistic talents against others'. That's the raw truth. May it inspire you to be honest with yourself.