A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it, it just blooms.
“You’ve never had a facial?” said an acquaintance. “How can you live without them?” At the time I was a single-mom of two young kids and dang proud that I was covering the basic monthly bills with my dental assisting paycheck. I looked at the woman and shrugged. “Facials are not a priority in my life.” And it was true.
I suppose I could have felt “less than” because I didn’t have the disposable income she had, but why compare myself to her? I was living my life, my way, and felt happy.
We live in an age where people share their accomplishments, celebrations, vacations, beautiful homes, and family highlights with a few clicks of the computer keyboard. We see perfect, photoshopped women on the covers of magazines and are inundated by marketing campaigns that tell us what is wrong with our diverse, interesting bodies.
In other words, it is horrifically hard not to compare our lives to others. But I hope you can step back and reassess what makes you, and your life, unique when those moments come uninvited.
“Can you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?”
Maybe it was because I was raised with three boisterous brothers, maybe it was because my grandmother had a bad habit of comparing me (and my numerous shortfalls) to my virtuous cousin, or maybe I just got lucky. But I learned early that it was more fun NOT to be like others. Why be an imatation of someone else when I could be a genuine, “Lord what is she into now,” me?
Not that I don’t have wishes and desires. I see, and then want, many beautiful things that will probably never be mine. I have friends living lifestyles that makes me yearn to reinvent or improve, mine.
But here’s the thing, and maybe it is a fine line… I don’t want what they have. I don’t want to be them. It’s not about comparing, or measuring myself against others. When I see someone living out her dreams, I feel happy, not resentful or jealous.
I feel inspired. She did it, I think. She took steps to reach the lifestyle she imagined. That’s so cool! What am I doing to create my best life? (And, my best life may be a bajillion miles from what the fantastic, inspiring, woman created. It’s the steps forward and not the destination that gets me excited.)
The woman who couldn’t believe I had never had a facial is married to a multi-millionaire. She is used to the best of, well, everything. It would have been understandable if I felt resentful at her question. But I didn’t.
I looked her squarely in the eye and felt every bit her equal back in my barely-making-it-single-mom-paycheck-to-paycheck life. Why? Because I was unapologetically me. I owned my choices and felt compared to no other.
Laura Carlson says
Another awe inspiring article, Gail. I could relate to so much of what you said. I was compared to my dear cousin when I was a kid. I remember always hearing how beautiful she was, how talented, how skilled at cooking and sewing. I also remember the boy we both liked one summer, and how flabbergasted I was when he asked ME! to the dance instead of my perfect cousin. I find that I have to occasionally break away from social media, especially in the winter time. I see all these photos of friends in exotic and warm places. I am happy for them and I do not feel resentment or jealousy. I do feel a yearning to be there though. I need to work with myself on the happiness I can build right here in the frozen tundra. HA! Well, I can try. Thanks so much for your thought provoking pieces.
I so loved your response, Laura. It is shocking when those around you treat you a certain “less than uplifting” way, and then someone comes along and shatters those old beliefs. Please know I have never, ever, seen you as anything other than beautiful, funny, and off the charts kind and talented. Hang in there…winter is waning! Hugs!