When it seems like all of our friends are getting married, having kids, purchasing houses or settling into careers before us, how are we supposed to feel? Is it possible to maintain true excitement for them without comparing their circumstances to ours?
In such situations we’re often first told not to measure ourselves against others, but this advice is easier said than done. In most cases, it’s just natural to compare ourselves to those around us; we look to others’ situations and behaviors in order to gauge our own. At one point or another, haven’t we all asked ourselves, Am I as happy as her? As capable? As successful? Yet, if this is how we determine our worth, we’ll never win. Last week, for example, I was with two friends when the topic of work came up. Both of them talked about how well their careers were going and expressed gratitude for being able to use their talents and abilities in such meaningful and fulfilling jobs. As I listened, I felt genuine delight for them. At the same time, however, I couldn’t help but compare their situations to mine and feel a twinge of fear that I might never experience that same level of passion and success in a career. If we’re honest, I think it’s a feeling we’ve all had at various points in our lives, stemming from our deep desire to be valued and to measure that value and success through a tangible means.
When thoughts of fear like these start to rise, it helps to take an honest look at what it is we’re beating ourselves up about. Often, we compare the perceived worst things in our own lives to what we idealize as the best or most desirable things in someone else’s – which is never a fair comparison. While discussing work last week, for example, I was tempted to feel discouraged about where I was career-wise because it wasn’t the same as those whom I was talking to – regardless of the fact that we each work in different industries and each have different end goals according to our different passions and talents.
When our lives don’t seem to measure up with our friends, we must remember that we’re not meant to share the same paths, struggles and successes as they are. There are more than seven billion people in the world – and all of us are unique. We weren’t created to be the same. None of us are here to live out the same achievements at set times, but rather to pour out love through our personal gifts.
Perhaps, if we seek to recognize and appreciate what is unique and lovable in each aspect of our lives, we’ll grow in confidence so that “keeping up” won’t matter as much as being real in our friendships. When we look to our own lives as the standard for which to grow within, we can, as Nora Ephron advocated, “Be the heroine of [our lives], not the victim.”
Have you experienced the fear of “being last?” How did you cope with it?