Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Riding my bike through the panhandle the other day I looked up and saw a woman in an adorable vintage dress ride past me. My immediate thought was, "I need a floral vintage dress! She is so cute on her adorable bike, in her adorable dress, and all I have on is a striped (vintage) dress and that isn't as awesome as a FLORAL vintage dress, and my bike only has a metal basket and hers is woven, and clearly I NEED a floral vintage dress, because I don't have one, maybe I do have one, but not one with a dark background. Why is she cuter than me?!"
Yes, most of that really did happen in my head: I had a jealous freak out that another women, who I will likely never speak to, looked cuter than me, at least in my mind, for the 5 seconds I saw her, I think she probably, looked cuter than me.
I like to believe I am a rational person. So, how does a rational woman justify that inner dialog? I think it comes from the mistaken impression that life is a competition, and my goal is to be better than everyone around me at everything. By everything I do mean everything, even my flaws need to be better than everyone else's. I don't think I am alone in this. I have countless conversations with loving and kind, well meaning people, who at one point or another are trying to prove to me, and everyone around them, that they are in fact best/worst at whatever is being discussed. We all seem to find identity in this competition, and in this competition we are all loosing it; not simply loosing the competition, but our own sanity.
It seems that in order to win the competition we find our thing that we feel is ours and we run with it. Sadly, no matter what it is we choose, our winning thing is often very fragile. My thing is my style and the way I ride around on a cute pale blue mixie. So, when I looked up an saw another woman looking cuter than me, I had lost the competition for the day. 9:00 am is way too early in the day to loose. So, I had a spaz moment in my head. Not because she actually looked cuter than me, but because compared to her, I had lost, and therefore my identity for the day was declared less.
Comparison kills joy, and it kills identity. Here is the shockingly bad news: none of us are the best person ever at anything, and we never will be. We are also not the worst, our life is not tragically harder or worse than everyone else's ever. Someone will be cuter, smarter, more stylish, and generally more awesome than you at something, or going through a harder crisis. You can deal with this in one of two ways: be jealous of their awesomeness or celebrate it; compete with their pain or grieve with them.
I wish that I had seen that woman that day and appreciated her style. Thought to myself "wow, that was a great dress" and stopped there. Simply celebrated her beauty instead of being jealous of it. I wish that every time some shared something hard, I offered genuine empathy. I am making a goal of both of these things. I know it will take some work. It will require that I remember that someone else's success does not imply my failure: I will need to learn that my identity is not found in comparison to others; I will have to take time to be grateful for the things I have; and I will need to face my own pain so that I can sit with others in theirs. I am pretty sure if I do these things I will loose fewer nonexistent competitions at 9 am, and that sounds like better idea than buying another vintage dress.