"do you know who that was?" a girl asked her boyfriend on the hiking trail. it happened right after they passed a group of three--two guys, one woman--ahead of me. i wanted to turn and hop in their path, ask who? and hold them captive until they told me.
the guys seemed unremarkable, so i studied the girl. was she the famous one? lithe and toned, with excellent hair, she looked short for a model. a dainty movie star, maybe? we were similarly dressed, which pleased me. but her thigh gap was astonishing.
and there the daydream ended. who cares if you share a taste in hiking clothes? your shoulders are twice as wide, Julia.
she's so pretty. probably married at 22, like the protagonists. oh, now she's a mere 37, still married and with two kids. and she's published three (3!!!) well-received novels since 2008. what the hell??
let's take the 10,000-foot view for a second. first, i compared myself to the back of a woman i'd never seen. she could've been a cyclops. then, the object of my envy was a novelist. i don't write fiction. we're in different ball games.
i've since climbed out of the gutter of inferiority, but we all fall into it occasionally. here's how to escape and what to value instead.
people whose faces you've never seen and/or authors might not be your jealousy jam. that's cool. maybe you obsess over friends' accomplishments, the careers of decades-older celebrities, or worse, those of the younger ones.
there are few unequivocal truths in life, but here’s one:
the only person you should compare yourself to…is you.
anticlimactic, i know. but the most effective way of sidestepping inferiority is comparing your present to your past. nothing, and no one, else.
if we were rational, we wouldn't compare ourselves at all. it's illogical. why bother, when our stories, histories, and therefore trajectories are different? it's totally unscientific!
if nothing else, just reviewing earlier versions of yourself keeps your attention focused on the only person entirely under your control.
instead of falling into the black hole of “why do they have all the success?” answer and act on the following:
- how was your life a year ago? what did you want?
- and what do you want now? the same things? different stuff?
- what’s in the way of getting them?
- what are you going to do about those obstacles?
and if you insist on yearning for other people's treasures, do yourself a favor and get to the source.
- what specifically about their physical appearance/literary prowess makes you growl with envy?
- what do you really want that they appear (operative word) to have?
- how can you achieve that?
how do you manage comparing yourself to others? let me know in the comments!
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