“Saying “I am so busy” has become the new “fine” when asked how you are doing." Catharine Flax
Those around me, both clients and friends, often share their anxiety and feelings of unworthiness based on the colossal statement:
“I feel like I don’t do enough or at least not nearly as much as others… ”
We compare ourselves ruthlessly to the image of others. What they have, possess as qualities, how they look and even what we believe they feel...
I’ve heard countless times how “so and so is going to the gym regularly, has their own start up, travels, works in a company as well, enjoys a busy social life…” and what am I doing, huh?
Precisely, where is your start up? Where is your passion for drinking until the early hours? How about your stamina? How dare you don’t do the same as Joe, Susan, Dave and Emily?
Don’t take too long pondering on that, because we are late for looking at James and Denise. That’s right, the CFO, Director, Senior Director or Partner at the age of 33!? And where are you in your career? Do you even know in which area you want to progress for the rest of your life? And when are you going to get that Master’s degree or MBA you’ve been talking about… duh?! Why aren’t you a Senior Partner^2 already? What are you doing?
And last but not least on the major comparison disaster list - the friends who also recently bought their own house or are in the process of, saved £250k and are also the same person as that in the first paragraph – you know, the one with super active social life and a girlfriend on top…
I know for a fact that instead of making you feel better right now, I listed all your real fears in one go. Even if we consciously know this must be an exaggeration, we also feel it’s not that far from reality.
There are indeed the Susans and the Davids who seem to have it all. Or are there?
I've worked with not only a few of them now. I've had ambitious, beautiful clients, working hard, progressing impressively with their careers, having a house and a partner…
Do you want to know what we talk about, thought? We talk about the fact that they’d rather spend time painting, travelling, being with their family… as opposed to having long nights in the office. They have clashes with friends and family over the priorities in life – do you want a family or do you want to travel. They can’t sleep well but have the ability to buy a wonderful Tiffany ring, etc. etc.
Those are amazing people that have it all and want something else.
They are the same amazing people that have it all but have also paid the price for it… and believe me, it’s never cheap.
Knowing this, knowing that NO ONE has a perfect life or is perfect themselves, the only real question you should be asking yourself is: DO I LIVE MY LIFE & DO I LIVE IT ACCORDING TO MY VALUES? Nothing else. Everything has a cost. Remember that. And the grass appears if not always, then at least often, greener on the other side – that’s normal, but it’s mostly an illusion.
Some people truly can, want and love stretching in all directions and doing a lot at the same time – it is part of their path, their journey, their life! They learn to be productive, sleep less, have interests which are NOT your interests. Their activities have their cost as well and they pay it every day. It may cost the depth of one’s connections, the time they have to spent with family, the physical unavailability, the financial costs of running it all at the same time, the time cost, the physical cost of exhaustion and the feeling of swollen brain that sometimes just stops because of over-use. The cost of twitching eyes due to nerves and screen-time. The cost of responsibility for others, like workers or other people involved in their projects…. And so much more… yes, they do it all because of their personal needs and reasons but it’s all relative and sometimes those same individuals turn around after a long time and realise they regret what they paid for it.
On the other hand, deciding to be the one that always has weekends off, watches comfortably movies with their other half, eats the great, tasty fat pancakes… they pay their price and enjoy their perks respectively too. The feeling of not realising your full potential, the financial constraints, the narrower scope of experiences in life, the fewer opportunities for making a big-impact contribution, the potentially worse physical health, etc.
Which one is more correct as a lifestyle? Is one an “achiever” and the second one “mediocre and lame” or is the first one “shallow and overcompensating” while the second is “content, in touch with a deeper meaning and enjoys the little pleasures”?
We tend to put labels on everything and everyone which is our mechanism of classifying and simplifying information. It’s a useful tool but it’s not a reflection of the whole truth… it’s not a reflection even of a large proportion of the truth for that matter – it is just a high level summary of people and their lives in an attempt to quickly consume and use otherwise vast amounts of known and unknown components presented to us.
Comparing ourselves to others (without thorough extensive research and analysis around one’s life) is a mistake! It is based on incomplete and often inaccurate information for a starter.
Comparing our whole selves to only isolated characteristics of others is the equivalent of madness, but...
People also say it’s healthy to compare and compete. It pushes our boundaries, makes people achieve more than they would otherwise… I agree, growth and experience can be stimulated this way in one condition – we look and compare like for like only. In other words – if someone is good at dancing and you want to develop your dancing skills – yes, aim to develop to their level, learn from them, compete.
However, if someone is good at dancing and you automatically associate other qualities with the skill, assuming they also must be graceful, gentle, clever, etc. and start comparing your whole self to their one skill (and unconfirmed assumptions) – then this is … plainly wrong.
I believe most people do the second type of comparison. They look at a particular skill or trait and assume this is the whole person, the whole truth. Then they compare their whole self to this one narrow thing and beat themselves down for not being there.
What I am trying to give you with this article is the freedom to aim at being yourself above all else and live your own life above all else.
Drop as many of your fears as humanly possible around what others would think of you and explore with comfort what’s the worst that can happen if someone doesn’t like you. Believe it or not, you are already not "everyone’s favourite person". Might as well achieve this for the right reasons – being yourself, instead of not being liked at all times while you were genuinely trying to be someone else and do it all.
Love & Respect,