About three weeks ago I was going through a friend’s profile on Facebook and I was struck by how well she seemed to be doing. The more I explored her ins and outs through her posts and statuses, the more a strange desire grew in me. I sat with this uncomfortable feeling until it became obvious that I was envious of this friend. In that moment I wished I had her life.
As embarrassing as it was for me to admit, it was also a moment of clarity.
I know that most of us have at some point looked at another person’s life and thought, “I wish I had that life.” And I suppose that is normal in as far as human weaknesses go. But have you ever seriously considered why we sometimes feel like that? Why we would want somebody else’s life instead of our own?
These are the questions I have been wrestling with since my Facebook moment.
Of course the simplest answer is that somebody else’s life always appears easier, more glamorous and fulfilling than our own. Perhaps they have that perfect job we have been working hard for or they have access to opportunities we have been dreaming of, and maybe they have the financial security we would do anything to acquire. I guess these are all legitimate reasons to feel envious especially when we consider that life isn’t really fair. Some people are born into privilege and thus are often set up for life while others have to start from scratch.
Yes, I do feel the pinch of life’s unfairness sometimes, and it would be easy to become resentful.
But unfortunately or fortunately, the idea that our life would be better and easier if we had that other person’s life is merely an apparition. Because the truth is, even if we did have that person’s life, there would be somebody else’s life that would be more appealing and we would want that too! It is and would be an endless cycle. That’s why it is important to remember that our thinking that our life would be better if we had someone else’s is an illusion. And it only exists to distract us…if we let it.
I was giving my first paper at a symposium two weeks ago and the professor who gave the keynote speech said something very interesting – something I did not expect to hear in an academic paper. He said, “The reason why I am me is because I am not you.”
I was so struck by his words that for a moment my mind left the room and I was re-living those dark feelings I had experienced while scanning my friend’s Facebook profile a few days earlier. Only this time, I was giving them meaning, understanding them, and choosing to be bigger than them. Everything made sense…I am me for the simple reason that I am not my friend on Facebook who appears to be doing well.
That realisation compelled me to see myself in a different light. I am the heroine of my life story but there I was wishing somebody else was standing in my place! How could I disrespect myself like that?
I was compelled to do better; to embrace myself, to value myself, to know myself so intimately that I would willingly and lovingly respect myself.
See, when we are wishing for somebody else’s life, we often tell ourselves that it’s only because we want what they have and has nothing to do with how we see ourselves. And this may be partly true but what is also true is that in that moment, we lose focus on who we are, our journey and our uniqueness, and in that way, whether we like it or not, it does become about how we see ourselves.
I am amazed at how everything I am learning as I grow older has a lot to do with how I perceive myself. Being a person who is very much about others I tend to neglect me. But as I am finding out, the better I’m doing, the better I’m able to be of service to others.
So, what does this have to do with wanting somebody else’s life?
The key to overcoming that proclivity to wish you were walking somebody else’s path is developing a profound relationship with yourself and your own life.
You have to fall in love…with yourself.
You have to be mesmerised by the little and big things that make your life your own and nobody else’s.
This is where it all begins.
Take time off every now and then to be quiet within yourself and listen to your spirit. Commune with your own soul and get to know its heights and depths.
I kid you not; the world takes on a totally different shade of colour when you are in tune with yourself.
So, the next time you find yourself in that dark place where you want somebody else’s life (and you will), stop, take a deep breath and say;
“No, I want my life.”