I realised some time ago that to instantly feel more content and at ease with myself, I needed to stop comparing myself to other people.
Of course, this seems simple in theory. The truth is, it took a very long time for me to put this into practice. We are surrounded by other people all the time: friends, family, co-workers, schoolmates, roommates, even strangers. These are people whom we often deem more successful, better looking, more intelligent, funnier, more popular, basically just better.
But who says that they really are better? Who actually measures these things? And what is better anyway? I mean, Usain Bolt is a better sprinter than me (allegedly), but I’m not going to cry about it.
The truth is, these insecurities lie within ourselves. We make the comparisons. In some ways, it is perfectly normal. Competition is what drives us to succeed. But what about when we become consumed by feelings of inadequacy? Sometimes these comparisons with other people do more to hinder us than to help us.
When I was in school, I constantly compared myself to my classmates. When a test was returned to me, I was more concerned with what grade the people around me received than my own. My friend Laura was brilliant at science. It just seemed effortless to her. I, on the other hand, struggled with it. Whenever Laura got an A, all I could do was question my own ability, or perceived lack thereof. I would plague myself with questions: why can’t I get an A? What’s she doing that I’m not doing?
It took me some time to realise that science just wasn’t my strong suit. I loved it, but I had to work very hard to even maintain a C grade. My strengths in school were English and history. I received a pretty constant stream of A grades in both (self-five), but of course I didn’t focus on that. I focused on how poorly I was performing in science.
In short, I was focusing on what I couldn’t do, rather than what I could. I was also focusing on what Laura’s strengths were, which was just counter-productive. I should have been solely focusing on me.
This sense of inadequacy was evident in other aspects of my life too. I had serious insecurities about how I looked. My hair has always been curly, but that wasn’t fashionable throughout my teenager years. My two best friends had sleek and frizz-free hair and it bothered me that no matter how much I straightened my hair, it was never as smooth as theirs. I know that sounds so shallow, but during that delicate time of my life, it really seemed important.
I constantly compared myself to my female friends. I didn’t feel tall enough, thin enough, blond enough, my eyelashes weren’t curly enough, my collarbone wasn’t as pronounced, my nails weren’t as long, my eyebrows weren’t as arched, my fingers weren’t as lithe…I literally experienced all of these inadequacies and they tortured me. I scoured beauty magazines for tips, which definitely didn’t help the situation. As the lyric in Everyone’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen) goes
Do NOT read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly.
Looking back, it seems ridiculous that I let these thoughts consume me. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become much more comfortable in my skin. I have my mother’s eyes, my father’s nose (not literally, I should point out), and my grandmother’s curls. I have decided that it is a beautiful thing that a part of them will be with me (and a part of me) always. Why would I want to look like someone else?
I could also talk about how we often have these feelings in the workplace. We all have that workmate that seems more diligent, more efficient, more conscientious. I’ve come to realise that yes, these people are often great workers, but they harbour the same insecurities as everyone else. They have the same capacity for failure (and fear of it) as the rest of us.
I’m sure this doesn’t apply to you…
So my lovely readers, my point is that happiness often alludes us throughout our lifetimes and this is often the result of our own feelings of inadequacies. These feelings come from within. Once we stop comparing ourselves to everyone else, we can focus on being the best version of ourselves, not someone else.
Man, I feel like this right now:
But really, this is more apt: