It happens when you’re at the bottom of your happiness, when you’re struggling along with short breath, feeling discouraged and suffocated with questions, so you can’t help but to look at everyone else around you—those who have the things you want—and compare your life to them. It’s in this muck of insecurity that you see the world in a different light, hoping you’re not the only one, that there’s someone out there who understands, who is having a hard time, too, who is disgruntled in it, yet wants to make sense of it all just as much as you do.
You look at people your age, those you grew up with, went to school with, those with the same career goals and interests, current friends, friends of friends. And in seeing their world, their success, their happiness, you can’t help but to think: Where the hell did I go wrong?
Everyone is engaged, getting married, pregnant, having babies, working some dream job, moving to some really great place. And yet, you are not. Their lives dazzle social media in every form, looking golden and content and confident because they literally have everything they’ve ever wanted. They have what you want, essentially, because of their happiness, because their life isn’t plagued with a barreling open-endedness, of chronic wanting and wonder. Wild imaginations often nestle here, sketching the most perfect scenarios of what you “imagine” their lives to be—in every big moment and small one, and every other perfect smile in between their golden hue. Their world looks like Pleasantville, and yet here you are, a good person with a smart mind, so worthy of everything you’ve ever dreamed of, and you’re the one staring at the ceiling thinking hmm.
But this is when you need to take a good hard look. And this is when you need to take a good hard listen. Because then you’ll realize, through their façades and from their stories, that they absolutely do not have it as together as you might think. Demons hide well. Perfection knows how to act.
There is a flip side to everything. And it’s in those subconscious moments of vulnerability that we compare ourselves to others.
Imagine what people see when they look at you. Imagine the “story” that sketches in their mind, this polished perception of the life you live, and realize firsthand just how full of shit it is. Because you don’t have it all together. The highlights of you might look as spectacular as the rest, but there will always be something hidden underneath you, in you, that flourishes in darkness, in silence.
It’s just like that perfect married couple. Look at their house, their vacations, their autumn Sundays out and about in plaid and scarves. But what you don’t realize (and this is just an example I heard recently) is that they actually hate each other. They haven’t had sex in months. And she spends most of her spare time texting old boyfriends. You just don’t know. Breakdowns for the poised. Xanax. Family crisis. Sexual despair. Love and pain. Inhibitions. Fear. Sadness. It’s there, little pieces of it, ailments scurried in beauty, in perfection. So when your focus veers, questions looming—how do they have it all? how are they so happy? how are their lives so easy?—remember what’s between the lines, underneath, held tight in deep pockets. Continue to want all you want in life, but you must look inward for it and not be fooled in the midst of comparison. You just might have it way better off than you give yourself credit for.