There is an ugly underbelly to my mind that I would love to shed. It’s the part that can’t stop comparing my life to others’, the part that feels resentment when life is not exactly fair, the part that prevents me from sometimes being wholeheartedly happy for a friend’s good fortune.
I suppose we all have this part to some degree. We are social animals whose success on the planet depends on our ability to get along, to fit in, to compete. This necessarily requires comparison. Success often feels like a zero-sum game even though many of the things we are most longing for never run out – good relationships, happiness, personal fulfillment.
Right up until this past year, when I finally, undeniably, became an adult, I was still under the naive impression that adulthood came packaged with wisdom and confidence. I’m not sure why I thought this, since I have seen plenty of evidence to the contrary among adults.
But rather than getting over petty comparisons with age, I feel like they are only getting weightier now that the stakes are so much higher: partners, careers, homes, money, children etc. We are setting out the trajectory of our lives and suddenly differences that once seemed small – in income, background, values, talents, ambition and health – all start to seem so much more significant.
Regardless of the path we choose, we all have to make sacrifices along the way – sacrifices that can make our hearts hurt – and it becomes tempting to look around at your neighbours and feel resentment if they didn’t have to make those sacrifices. Of course they made their own, but we don’t see those; we just see our own lack. It becomes painfully obvious that life is not fair.
I have been dwelling on thoughts like this way too much lately. They feel like the thoughts of a really insecure or unhappy person, and I don’t like to believe I am either. Sure, at times I can be both, but overall I am a fortunate person and I know it. I have what I need and that should be enough. My happiness quite simply cannot be based on comparison or I will never be happy.
Now I recognize that getting anywhere near that place will be a life-long challenge.