Do you ever compare where you are now in your life to where others are, or to where you thought you should be by this time? If you do, and don’t feel happy as a result, the comments here may help.
I have a friend who, when she set up a social site page and began to reconnect with long-lost friends, learned who was doing what now. She shared with me that temporary depression settled upon her, as she compared her life to the lives of some she connected with. I say “temporary” because she eventually realigned her true feelings about this. My friend is, in the main, happy in her life and has good reason to be.
Back in the day, others saw her as a leader, a person going places in her life. The reality is a health condition started nearly two decades ago and altered that predicted-by-others path for her. She felt she’d let everyone down because she wasn’t in a high-powered position or owned her own company, or whatever else she and they may have expected and as some of her friends experience.
We never know a person’s complete story, despite what their successes, or what seems to be lack of successes, appear to be. And sometimes, even when we know what’s not working in their lives, we still dwell on something they do have that we feel we lack. As for my friend, the muse later paid her a visit and she’s created an enterprise that connects donated used musical instruments with students who want to play an instrument but can’t afford one. This has energized her and her life in major ways, as well as benefits many others in the process. This is what she was meant to do and when she was meant to do it. But, everything had to line up for this moment, including her inner vibration and energy.
"The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel." Steve Furtick
Comparing ourselves to others has a not-so-funny way of making us forget to what measure we’re actually happy with where and who we are. No one lives a life without challenges or feeling a range of emotions; but we are often generally happier or more content, for the most part, than we recognize or our ego aspect allows us to recognize. Things changed for my friend when she became peaceful and happy with who she was and where she was in her life. That state of mind and being opened a door that was ready to be opened in her life.
As I thought about what I wanted to say to my friend, before she had her inner shift, an image came to mind and I share it with you here. Imagine you enter a magnificent hall. There is a table in the middle of the room and you walk up to it. There is only one thing on the table: a beautifully bound book with your name engraved on the cover. You open the book to the first page and find this written on it: Please answer this question in order to choose one of the following two options, and know that whichever one you choose will design the map of your life. Question: Do you choose to do and be what makes others happy and win their approval or do you choose to do and be what makes you happy and fulfilled?
I imagined posing these options to a child of age four. It seems easy to imagine a child choosing to be happy — because the child wouldn’t have a clue what the first option might take to succeed at it, but is, likely, darn sure she or he knows what “happy” is. As adults, and if we’re honest about it, we’ve learned how exhausting the first option can be; yet, we may still feel conflicted about choosing the second option because we’re indoctrinated by our families and every element of society to go for the first one.
“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” ― John Lennon
In my image, the page with that question appears periodically in the book so we can revisit this choice at different life stages in our life. However, it isn’t beyond imagination that this page appears in our life book whenever we think it’s time to consider our options again, especially when we feel we aren’t living an authentic life and, possibly, aren’t even sure what that means to us after years of disregarding it. It also appears at the end of certain chapters (and beginnings of new ones) in our life.
The pain of inner discontent drives us to seek external balms and remedies, to seek instant gratifications, which are usually just bandages covering emotional bruises or wounds that influence our authenticity and responsibilities to ourselves and our life. But these externals and the pursuit of or craving for them does not address what begs for nourishment inside of us. Whatever word(s) we use — secure, prosperous, successful, loved, and so on — we, ultimately, want to feel good, feel in harmony, about who we are. We’ve become confused about how we can arrive there after years of asking ourselves what others expect of us so we’re accepted and approved of, instead of what we want, need, and require for ourselves, our well-being, and our joy.
I recently read, “There are many types of success and they aren’t all about getting ahead.” To be consumed with external, tangible success, completely or more so than with inner, intangible success, smacks of “I’ll be happy when” thinking, feeling, and behaving. That kind of thinking, feeling, and behaving ignores present-moment happiness, which is a form of self-abuse practiced far too often by far too many of us. This is because it’s a program that was downloaded into us long ago, one that needs replacement with a better one.
We forget to count our successes that no one can measure but us, because we’re conditioned to focus on how others think we measure up. If we remembered to genuinely appreciate all our successes often, we’d feel a great deal happier, content, and fulfilled. We can also look at any area of our life we feel needs a positive shift and ask, “What can I do that I will do to allow me to do better than this?” It doesn’t have to be huge, just effective. Don’t talk about it; start where you are, and do something different or differently.
So, the question is: Do you choose to do and be what makes others happy and win their approval or do you choose to do and be what makes you happy? Like the four-year-old child, are you clear about what that overall feeling, as opposed to appearances, means to you? Maybe it’s time to ask yourself this and see what you learn. And, it’s okay to do this each day and especially at crossroad moments in your life. It’s a good practice, one you’ll appreciate.
Practice makes progress.
© Joyce Shafer