So you don’t have Warren Buffett’s money, Angelina Jolie’s good looks, Mother Teresa’s charitable heart, or Richard Branson’s business skills?
Drat. Me neither.
I wonder if the cave men sat around the campfire wondering if some tribe 100 miles west had better tasting antelope or more comfy animal skins to sleep on? Probably not.
So why do we allegedly modern humans compare ourselves to one another – and most of the time find ourselves coming up short?
Could it be the fault of television and the internet?
How else would a person living today on the Mongolian steppes even know there are palm trees in Hollywood?
How would some kid being raised in poverty in an inner city slum even realize that some other kids have two parents and a bedroom stuffed with toys in a clean, peaceful, safe suburb?
What Does It Do for Us When We Compare Our Lives with Those of Another?
I can think of three benefits:
1. It gives us all an interesting distraction, something to daydream about, like a lottery ticket.
2. It helps the manufacturers of those goods and services we crave to make more money so they can hire more people (in theory) and pay higher stock dividends (for sure).
So your lust for someone else’s life is…uh…good, right?
Maybe, maybe not.
A lot of people live every day believing they are incapable of creating the life they want. People with low self-esteem suppose that they can’t even make things a little bit better than they are today. In fact, for many, watching all that fancy expensive stuff and those beautiful people on TV makes them feel worse about themselves, no matter what those motivational speaker types promise about “you can have it all”, right?
(Some of you know this already but…) In 1991, both my children died in a horrific car accident. My son was just over 4 years old and my baby daughter was 18 months old. That made the fact that my body was completely wrecked a minor side issue.
I had spent my youth hearing what the ministers in my parents’ church told me: because I was born female, my highest value was my ability to mother my children well and keep house. I had rebelled for a while, but not hard enough. Well, now my “highest value” was buried 6′ deep and I couldn’t even walk, much less keep house. My self-esteem, my hopes for happiness, everything was gone.
Maybe something bad has happened to you, too? Something that made you incapable of “keeping up with the Joneses”? Maybe it was a rough childhood, some kind of abuse or poverty, a disaster of some sort? A major loss in your life? What made you give up?
When life has smacked you down hard, how do you get to the place where you can even start to dream, to hope, to take effort to save yourself? If you were told as a kid that you’re stupid, disadvantaged, or unworthy; if you were abused or hurt in some deeply painful way; if you don’t have enough money; or you hate your job and can’t afford to quit, what in the world are your options? Do you even have any?
How are you ever going to muster up the energy and level of hope it takes to take a shot at being happy, safe, peaceful and fulfilled? To have the life you want?
Since my children died, I’ve read a lot of books. Been to a lot of seminars. Although there are many ways of finding a path out of the depths of sadness, despair and emptiness, the door to my recovery was opened by the famous inspirational speaker Anthony Robbins. Little by little, the things he said seeped into my broken heart and very slowly, I sprouted the smallest little sliver of hope.
I’ve built a pretty good life since that enormous tragedy, and it came from nurturing that little bit of hope until it grew up into a tree and bore fruit. I suspect that for all of us, it comes down to this: choosing hope. Trusting against the evidence that something better could maybe happen to you someday, somehow.
When you firmly decide to hope, you take the first wobbly baby step toward a better life for yourself.
When your self-esteem is gone; when your heart is shredded; when life has kicked in your teeth; when you honestly believe that “nothing” ever goes your way; when you are lying in a hospital bed set up in your own living room and thinking about your children in the dark, cold cemetery miles away; it all comes down to this decision: I will choose to hope. I will take action to the best of my ability, to the furthest extent I am capable, starting with the resources I have now.
Chances are, there’s a library near you that contains some books you can read for free. Go find James Allen’s “As a Man Thinks”; Tony Robbins’ “Awaken the Giant Within”; Catherine Ponder’s “The Dynamic Laws of Prosperity”; or Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich”. Start there.
Not a reader? Many of these books are available in audio format, and in some cases you can find pieces of their works on YouTube. (And I can tell you’ve got access to a computer or you wouldn’t be reading this!)
You’re right. They may not work for you. You may go all the way to the library, get the book, read it, do none of it, and still be in the exact same situation you’re in right now. But that will be on you. That will be your decision. Nothing works if you don’t take even a tiny action, but when you do, things can snowball – in the right direction. The direction of hope.
Oh, yeah. Reason Number Three for what it does to compare your life to that of another, someone you think has it better than you do? It helps you to focus on what you want. It shows you options.
Next time you see what you think is a good marriage or a good relationship with one’s children; you see a car or a house or a lifestyle or a career that makes you salivate, take note. That’s a message from your inner self saying, “You’re capable of this.” You couldn’t hope for it if you weren’t.
All you need is a little hope, which will lead you to take a little action, and those actions will help you build your self-esteem, which will give you more hope, which will lead you to take more (right) actions, and…you get the picture?
Self-esteem means to be confident in your own worth or abilities. It means to respect and appreciate yourself. You don’t have to believe right now that things get better, if that’s too much to ask. You don’t have to like yourself. All you have to do is take a deep breath and repeat aloud this truth: “Things must change and I must change them now.”
Accepting that one sentence, repeating it frequently, will open up whole new worlds of possibilities for you, wherever you are now and whatever you’ve had to face so far in your life. Look around the world. What do you hope for?
Feeling really depressed about your life right now?
Click here find out about my upcoming FREE webinar “Recover from Depression: Feel Better Faster”