Seeing ourselves relative to someone else is not only untrue, it's not useful. Believe me, I am an expert on human relativity. I am a twin. Picture the most popular girl in your high school or college. Picture the perfect bouncing golden locks, the winning smile, charismatic personality and uncharacteristic kindness. The captain of the cheer squad, a track star and never with out a boyfriend. This girl is my twin. Enter the fraternal twin sister. My family characterized me as shy, a late bloomer, a bit awkward and an uncoordinated dancer (very different from my sister who did the running man amid throngs of clapping early 90's groupies). These value laden words haunted me all through childhood and adolescence and still hide in the closet of my most unsure moments. Looking back, I don't even know if I actually was shy or awkward. I was just more shy and more awkward than my sister. The comparison was the damnation. I was not me for me. I was me relative to another.
Comparison is stagnation. It is emotional amputation. Comparison is adjacent to allowing a short-sided doctor to take extreme and aggressive medical measures. This fictitious doctor may say, "your leg doesn't have a great future, so I'll just cut it off. Save you the pain and heartache later." This would never pass. There would be uproar. Second opinions. Yet emotionally we cut off blood supply to dreams, confidence and personal development everyday because I am shy compared to the most popular girl in school. The person in the cubicle next to me got a promotion and I therefore I must be bad at my job. My neighbor is a fantastic entrepreneur and by virtue of her accomplishment mine diminish. My social media accounts have fewer followers and likes than another. I am less of this or more of that. News alert! Other people's accomplishments say nothing about you. Nothing.
Body dysmorphic disease, is a mental disorder characterized by an obsessive and critical preoccupation of some aspect of one's own appearance. Men and women affected by this disorder look in the mirror and see a distorted version of themselves. Although the image is their reality it does not reflect actual reality. Likewise, I believe we are each guilty of participating in this type of behavior on a consistent and regular basis. I have coined it emotional dysmorphic disease. When we look at self and and see the medals, twitter feeds and bank accounts of both strangers and friends we are distorting reality. Those medals and monies are not pertinent. Seeing the lists and loads of other's noteworthy and amazing feats piled against our own personal mistakes and set backs is as heartbreaking as the anorexic seeing obesity. It is not true and it it not useful. Just as their body image clearly does not reflect reality, neither do our piles of shortcomings set against others' piles of awards. A mental over focus on faults is akin to the excessive physical preoccupation with body image. It diverts our reality from the productive to the profane. To decidedly overlook the profound in order to find mistake and misstep is as damaging as it is wrong.
People consciously and subconsciously anchor their own identity and worth to other's strengths and accomplishments. If we allow our wants, dreams and identity to be tied to another's we never get to set the rules. Forever stuck in the background of somebody else's highlight reel while our bloopers live on repeat. This is crazy making. Instead determine to live own future and navigate personal identity according to strengths, interests and passions. Transition from seeing other's accomplishments as threats and instead find inspiration and insight. Chart growth relative to past, present and future self. Map goals according to strengths rather than liabilities. Cast aside human relativity for personal identity and destiny.
For me, a life where flaws, real or imagined, gain disproportionate airtime is depressing. A life where your sibling's, friend's or relative stranger's accomplishments crowd out personal worth is painful. Sadly, each of us spend far too much time in this reality. Let's change the focus. Shift the vantage point. See goodness. Observe effort. Appreciate strength. Because in reality we create our own reality. Good or bad. I am both strong and short tempered. Articulate and forgetful. Driven and discouraged. We are multifaceted, complex beings. We get to decide where to focus and spend time. Will our self-image reflect compassion in struggle, honesty in accomplishment and hope in endeavor? Or will hope and accomplishment be muted by shortcoming, failure and inexperience? In actuality the difference between the two perspectives is as much a factor of perception as it is reality. To cure emotional dysmorphic disease, stop negativity, plain and simple. At the end of your day make a daily reckoning of personal strengths and detail how they were executed. Stop charting other's strengths against your struggle. Always focus on strength above weakness. Discover insight in error. Find triumph in failure. Decide to see greatness. Starting today, choose the reality you want to see, because true or not it will become your life. It will be reality.
**Please share. I would love to here your stories of success and struggle. Our stories are who we are. The compilation of what we have overcome and the direction we are moving. We are the sum of our heartache and happiness. I believe it is through sharing that wisdom and understanding can occur. I would also love to here personal insights on how the ideas of the article relate your own experience. Sharing our common human struggle strengthens our bond to each other.
-- Thank you
About Maran Whiting Hanley: As a writer life is my artist muse. I love to watch and apply. I believe a writer's job is to tell a story. To fit disparate and incongruent pieces into one great whole. I am an enthusiast of health and wellness. I am passionate about self-care, whole foods and movement. I am a mother. I love to travel. I am an artist. A collector. A lover of art. Above all I am human--by trial and error trying to learn how to live and love.