i have a problem and it’s called other people.
other people are better than me.
other people are better friends, better wives, better daughters, better sisters.
other people’s kitchens and bathrooms are cleaner than mine. everyday tasks are easier for them.
other people have flatter stomachs and better diets.
other people’s lives turn out better than mine. they get what they want. their dreams come true.
other people’s problems aren’t as bad as mine. they don’t cry as hard. they don’t feel as much. they get over it faster or better or easier.
other people are different than me. i am different than other people.
other people other people other people other people
who are they? who are these other people? why did i write these unrealistic stories about their lives that don’t exist and then hold myself to a standard that isn’t even real?
it’s too easy for me to scroll through my facebook feed and compare my life to the pictures i see. she’s so skinny – how does she do that? he has two kids already and i’m not even close to having one. what’s wrong with me? what’s right with them? isn’t it frustrating to understand a problem behavior and watch yourself do it anyway? i already know that i’m comparing my insides to someone else’s outsides. i know that looks can be deceiving, that there’s more than meets the eye. but somehow i can’t help myself. it’s my habit – i know how it goes.
other people was easier when i was less aware. i didn’t think about why i compared myself – i just did it. i believed the lie that i wasn’t good enough, that i was different. back then i didn’t know i could challenge my thinking, that i was telling myself a broken story. our brains are always searching for evidence to confirm what we already think and feel. other people kept me focused on other people – it made me feel safe. i didn’t have to look at me.
now i am living in a whole new way. asking myself new questions, writing myself a new story. i notice when other people happens. how often it happens. how deep it goes. how it can snatch me out of contentment and sink me into jealousy. how it can turns my focus from internal acceptance to external judgement. my thinking changes, my words change, my feelings change. now i notice what other people does to me.
other people’s lives aren’t so perfect. since i started this blog i have received hundreds and hundreds of messages from people who are struggling mightily. family friends and relatives have confessed to me about their own mental illness and personal challenges. i have met and been inspired by so many people who are living every day with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. people who have survived suicide attempts and who struggle with self harm. it isn’t only me. i’m not the only one.
and yet something inside of me can’t let go of the refrain that i am not enough. that i am different. that other people are better than me. so i ask myself: who are the other people? what does this represent? why are you still holding onto this story?
what can other people teach you?
because it isn’t about the person in the picture with a family and a house and a worry-free life. it isn’t about them. it isn’t about anyone else.
it’s really about me.
a little girl whose father left. whose family broke. whose life was disrupted. a young woman who knew pain and loss and fear. an adult who got sick and fell apart and started over. there are things i needed that i didn’t get to have. there are moments i have experienced that left me feeling profoundly alone. apart. different. in the years following my father’s suicide my world felt messy, unpredictable and completely unfair. maybe comparing myself to other people allows me to get angry about everything i was denied. maybe it’s a way of explaining the unexplainable things that happened to me. it could be related to the guilt of surviving a suicide loss. it could be some or all of none of these reasons. i don’t really know.
what i do know is this: comparing myself to someone else leaves out the important part of my story: that i kept going. that i kept trying. that my beautiful spirit pushed forward and up and out into the world, despite so many obstacles. maybe other people is an opportunity for me to stop and remember how brave i am. how far i’ve come. how much i’ve grown.
the old saying is true: comparison is the thief of joy. it is also the thief of me. my story, my journey, my reality. my scars. what makes me shine. what is awesome about my life. sometimes the most simple act is the most challenging: to honor who i am, where i’ve been and where i’m going.
other people didn’t live through what i did and other people didn’t find my strength.
i did that. not other people.