Why are we so obsessed with being everybody else? Each of us is a unique confluence of causality, chance, observations and interactions. Our personhood has been formed over time, gradually defined in incremental amounts as the waves influence the rocky shore. We’ve seen, heard, felt. We’ve processed and learned. New information has caused us to re-process and shift. We’re constantly evolving, simultaneously being and changing. No one else in the history of humanity has ever followed the exact course of events we call our history and nobody ever will. That’s why we’re us. It’s what defines us and makes us special. It’s something worth treasuring, that serves to inform who we’ll be when we next look back.
I repeat, why are we so obsessed with being everybody else? What is it that causes us to pine after the lives of others rather than celebrating our own? Why do we decide that we’re never good enough? Never smart enough? Never pretty enough? Never strong enough? Never funny enough? Never brave enough? Why is it that we fixate on the successes of others and reflect on how ours pale in comparison?
We create pedestals in our minds for those who we consider to tower above everyone. We decide who the best people are, the smartest, prettiest, strongest, funniest, bravest. For each pillar of our lives, we find idols who fulfill those aspects of ourselves where we crave excellence. We crane our necks so severely looking up to these figures that we start to ache. These idols cast such a long shadow that we grow accustomed to living in the dark. We convince ourselves that because we’re not as high, we’re falling behind. We grow anxious as we envision all the ways we’re not meeting these goals and convince ourselves that it’s a failing on our part hindering our ascension.
As a society we’re addicted to lusting after victory and acclaim. We’re fed images of the most powerful people, those who have “made it”. We live in a culture of celebrity idolatry that convinces us desire is more important than appreciation. If we’re satisfied, we won’t be as desperate to fix ourselves. We need to see all the ways in which we fail. If we don’t hate ourselves, we won’t (figuratively and financially) buy into a system that runs on our insecurities. We need to be the best we can be. Scratch that, we need to be better than that. More importantly, we need to be better than everyone else. There’s a desperation to our lives that is fuelled by more bitterness (both internal and external) than most of us are comfortable admitting. There’s so much negative self talk that tells us we’re not enough. Enough of anything.
Here’s something. Everybody faces their own battles. We don’t see the wars people are waging inside their heads, we only see the end results. We look at success and see it detached from the source of that success. We want what others have, but often we’re blind to what it took them to get there. We crave the results because we can’t see the struggle. As our personhood has formed over time, so too has theirs. Their life has been a distinct experience from your own, but you expect to have what they do? You’re using wholly different metrics but expecting the same results?
I get it. I do this every day. I’m never enough and I don’t stop telling myself this. I’m so convinced with being better that I can’t grasp that being better is as simple as continuing to learn and grow. I’ll be the me that I need to be when I am and no sooner. What I will never be is someone else and I need to stop believing that it’ll happen. I need, as I suspect we all do, to forgive myself for everything that I’m not and start thanking myself for everything that I am. Because you know who I’m better than? Who I was.