Have you ever been in a place where you are looking at someone else’s life and thinking – I wish I had what they had? I wish that was me. How do they make it look so easy? Why do such great things only happen to them?
Well let’s just be completely honest with ourselves here, we have all been guilty of this type of thinking. We, whether we like to admit it or not, have at one stage or another fallen victim to the act of comparison and often without being consciously aware of it. Come on…it’s confession time…
What happens when we compare ourselves, our lives and our ability to those of others? Surely it is just a simple act of thinking? Nope, it is as dangerous as sucking on a tube of super glue and getting it surgically removed.
So how do you know you are doing it?
Symptoms could present themselves as follows:
1. Chronic discontentment with anything to do with your own life
- This is when you are for example regularly redecorating your house or remodeling your front garden so that it looks just like the house down the road only to find 2 days later that they have now gone totally zen or desert nomad and you are once again out instead of in.
- Feeling inadequate around others becomes the norm.
- Feeling like your children or your partner are inadequate in comparison to the fabulous families of friends.
- Doing things that you know will impress others and not because it’s something you want to do.
- Suppressing your own personality in fear others will not appreciate you or like you as you are.
- Comparing your talents to those around you and feeling you could never be as great as them and then worse stil,l withdrawing from expressing that talent because you feel it doesn’t count for much.
2. Chronic criticisms of those around you
- Normal is when others get on your nerves here and there but when you find yourself slating the tiniest detail of the cool gal in the next door office block and when the darling, little girl guide who sold you the choc chip cookies was a hot item of finger pointing – I think there may be an issue.
3. Constant criticisms of yourself
- You never stop whipping yourself for getting things wrong or being unable to reach your own high standard of perfection
- When others pay you a compliment you find it very hard to accept. If they tell you they like your shoes you can’t just say thanks – you will always say something to the effect of “What these old things?”
- You don’t like yourself, your hair, your nose etc. and you feel very intimidated when you feel others look better than you do
4. Difficulty in believing anything good could actually come your way
Do any of the above sound familiar? The dangerous and sad thing about living in the comparison cycle is that you get so focused on others that you lose sight of who you are. You forget the dreams and visions you once had as a child or a younger version of you and you get caught up in trying to live someone else’s. Well, guess why you aren’t happy!?
When I was first married I remember wanting my house to be just perfect, my wardrobe to be fabulously chic and my husband to be the absolute darling of the social calendar. I did what I could to get these things in place – but neither my budget nor my beautifully reserved, but fabulous husband wanted to play my game (love you babe but you weren’t in the zone when loads of people were around…).
I was losing hopelessly to this comparison cycle and I just could not understand why nothing was going my way. I will tell you what I did get out the deal (eish! This is open season on confession here) we built up a very unfabulous amount of debt, discontentment and some unfair criticism – that I may tell you came free of charge and with interest from the community around us.
Robin – don’t smile as you read this okay – I can hear you chuckling already… I wanted stuff, the zooty car, the latest in coffee machines, the walk-in wardrobe, I put so much value on it – I believed that when I had what some of my more affluent (or credit worthy, then again maybe not, but that sure was part of the assumption) friends had I would feel better and that I would have made it.
Now I sound like I was a mad women buying loads of things and maxing out my credit card – it wasn’t quite that drastic but for our meager budget it was enough. I didn’t live out a daily existence watching others and wishing I could be them – it was a slow, subconscious process that I was very unaware of until I was forced to look at my life with eyes wide open.
When I look back now I can see it – I can see what drove that behaviour and what boxed up my dreams and the ability to run after them. I remember making decisions that were really unwise because I thought that if I could achieve what I saw someone else achieving I too would feel so much better about my life. We had to make some tough, ‘un-chic’ decisions, and slowly but surely the finances improved,the debt mountain became more of a hill and I started feeling like we were in a better space without the clutter of ‘gumf’ and some of the people I thought we needed to keep impressed. The reality check made its way into my space with a loud hello! We sold our house and moved into a tiny little townhouse rental with our 2 kids, no fabulous appliances and guess what…I discovered Contentment 101.
Roll on the next opportunity. We moved to Cape Town and if you ever think you were out of your depth in terms of ‘fabulosity’ you needed to move in these newer circles. Oh boy, the cycle reared its ugly head again and we were once again on the fast track around that contagious track of keeping up with the Von Wunderbars and company! When you live in this kind of cycle it takes some drastic circumstances to make you shift your perspective and the angle at which you look at things.
Again the sneaky habits began to reassert themselves. To be fair some of the situations we faced were quite beyond our control and at the time when the really tough stuff was happening I thought there was no way we would survive it. I felt like our life, was just slowly crumbling away, like a piece of overcooked shortbread and there was nothing I could do to put it back together again.
Reality check knocked on the door once again and a little wisdom from above…we started stepping back and living OUR life for us and letting go of airs and graces and ignoring the ‘call of the wanting or the VISA’, we began to breathe again.
The sobering thing about it was that we never realised we were holding our breath. It felt so good, to get air into our lungs again and to be who we were and to be okay with the fact that it wasn’t always moonshine and roses and to admit that yes, we had morning breath in the morning and that every now and then there was gas and where there is gas well…there is poop. We were practically normal – it’s just that there weren’t that many people around us who were that willing to admit to it or live it with us.
It was when we stepped off the comparison track and onto our own four feet again that we remembered. We remembered what the dream was and why we believed we were here after all. We were unboxed, unwrapped and you what… a little bit vulnerable. When you get real, that’s what happens, you make yourself vulnerable and it feels weird. A good weird though – when you are being more honest with yourself you can feel, when you feel you can understand and understanding grows possibility, you just need to create space for it. When there is possibility, there is movement and where there is movement in your life there is the opportunity for multiple perspectives – yes, more than one. More than one means there is more than one solution, answer and possibility and that in itself breeds hope. Now that’s the cycle I want to be living and breathing in.
Doesn’t it sound thrilling and freeing and victorious? I love it – I want it and I am so going to do it. It is completely hysterical how trapped we get by ourselves. We do it, we jump right into it and then we are miserable in it and blame everyone except our uncle 3 times removed and possible responsible for the invention of the toothpick. We have to take responsibility for our stuff.
So this is it, here I sit, under a great roof that is not my own – waiting for things to happen and I can tell you one thing – I am extremely, profoundly grateful for the lesson, the freedom that being in this place of ‘What next’ because when I get to ‘Next’ I am so going to love every minute of it. It will be ours, Rob’s and mine, and it will not be anything that anyone else has done or managed. It is going to be ours, with its flaws and the critiques of others, it will happy with moments that will make us cry, great and possibly a little awful at times but ultimately it will be ours and it will be what God has created us for.
I say so what: So what that it hasn’t happened in the exact time I wanted it to, so what that it isn’t exactly as romantic as I thought it would be and instead of a picket fence house I have this (maybe you have a wigwam and a wagon), but it’s yours for now and in that you will be able to achieve that which God has created you to achieve. We don’t have to fall into the exact time frames the world has developed for the human race to follow – and this is not revelation news!
There’s magic in being you, there is magic in being your own person and living it according to you and not the Jones’ down the road.
So if this post serves as anything – let it be a gentle encouragement to stop looking around you for everyone else’s okay. Is it okay with you? If it is, great, if it isn’t – do something about it, but whatever you do don’t base it on what you saw someone else get right. The only thing that I believe will drive your success and your victory is your OWN dream – if you have forgotten it or never even considered it…now might be the time.
Be blessed indeed friends.
Here’s to me and you, uniquely different and wonderful in our own spaces.
© Michelle Moller
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