I feel like everywhere I look this thought keeps coming up. Lately I have read about it on other blogs. I watch people squirm with it on social media...and mostly, I see the destructive nature of comparison.
Comparison is natural. It is human. Competition can drive you to excellence and push you to work harder. But when unchecked, comparison and it's ugly stepsister, competition, become a horrifying thing that will suck every piece of joy in your life away from you.
Picture an adorable young child happily eating an ice cream cone. They are BLISSFUL. They heartily lick at their single scoop of vanilla ice cream (this kid's favorite flavor). And then it happens. Another kid comes along. This kid has 3 scoops. One chocolate. One mint-chocolate chip. One strawberry. Instantly, the first child feels inferior. Why does the other kid have three? All of a sudden, the kid wants colorful flavors because vanilla is just so...vanilla. You see the point. The first child was thrilled with their treat until someone with something bigger, better, brighter was there.
In my youth, I was a "gifted" kid. I was always a top student. I played piano beautifully. I was terrible at sports and sported big geeky thick glasses. And due to my awkward gangly body, thick glasses and love of learning, I became a friendly nerd and the token smart girl. I was perfectly comfortable with this label. But very early on in high school, I learned I was not the smartest of the smart girls. Some of my best friends were smarter. Some of my classmates could blow me out of the water when it came to math and science. When it came time to apply to college, suffice it to say I was not the only kid apply to schools that were hard to get into. I applied to a tough school, got in and attended with 3 classmates from high school.
And so I arrived at Notre Dame, knowing that there was no way I was the smartest kid there. I still got A's and a few B's. But mostly I just tried to soak in all the awesomeness of the smart kids around me. Turns out no one but overachievers gets to go to Notre Dame and while I maybe had been something special in elementary school and high school...I was vanilla ice cream in college. If you were not okay with that pretty quickly at Notre Dame, you were set to have 4 miserable years. I took from this experience was that you don't have to be #1 to be special. You are special because you're unique and the people in your life love you. From a very young age I knew that there always be someone smarter than you, prettier than you, funnier than you, more dedicated and harder working than you. And all you can do is do your best, work at your gifts and talents, enjoy what your life has to offer. I believe learning this lesson early on has helped me be a happier person at every stage in my life.
A couple weeks ago, a female lawyer I love and respect and consider a friend told me that she had no idea how I was so perfect all the time. And that my life is just so golden. I heard some resentment in her voice as she discussed a couple of pictures I had recently posted on facebook. I was sincerely shocked. It shocked me that someone as brilliant as her, as gifted as her was resenting my life. And I told her "no my house is not always clean, my kids are not always cute, I am not always dressed well, and for goodness sakes sometimes we eat macaroni and cheese and hotdogs for dinner." She then asked so you just post "fake" happiness? Well not really that either. I just choose not to take pictures of my four year old mid-meltdown and complain about it to my closest 550 friends.
I guess what I'm saying is accept your path. And love your path. My path and my life has had intense and immense joy; regret; confusion; sadness; happiness and struggles. But every path and every life has similar ups and downs. And no matter what decision you make in life in jobs, life partners, whether to have kids, where to live, all of these paths will bring happiness and heartbreak.
The hard times are there for a reason. They test your resolve; build your strength, intensify your bond with those closest to you, but most importantly, the hard times are there so that when the good moments arrive you know them. If life was always sunshine and roses, you wouldn't realize how special sunshine or roses are.
Someone you know will always be better at yoga, better at running, more stylish, more beautiful, have better hair, have better legs, have a cooler job, have a cooler car, have a cuter boyfriend, lose their baby fat faster, be a "better" mom (whatever that means), keep a cleaner house, take better vacations, and make more money. So just be the very best you possible. Make the most of the amazing gifts you have (you have them, I promise). Work hard at being the best you and the kindest you and the most generous you possible. And make peace with the rest.
Anyways, a couple of bloggers I like also recently wrote on this. And they say it better than I do but in different contexts. If you ever find yourself saying "why is my life not more like ......." then read one of these. Be happy with your life. Choose to focus on the blessings you have. And know that someone out there is looking at your life and wondering how you do it all so well and are so fabulous. The alternative is to let comparison and competition suck every ounce of joy from your heart. I would not recommend going that route.