The beloved writer of the Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling, said: "It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default."
I love this quote! Especially since I'm a "recovering perfectionist" myself, who used to HATE to fail at anything. When it comes right down to it, I was probably mostly afraid of how failure would make me look...although it never seemed to stop me from trying most things -- but it sure did make for some anxious moments!
When I am depressed, I find myself frequently comparing myself to others and, of course, somehow always coming up short. How stupid is that? A birch tree doesn't envy an oak, a rose doesn't try to be a daffodil, and a cardinal doesn't practice singing like a goldfinch. Most of God's creations are very happy just as they are.
So what happened to us?! Well, it's an odd thing in my estimation - wanting to improve ourselves is a great thing and looking to others for inspiration is as it should be. BUT, if we're not careful...or, that is, IF I'M NOT CAREFUL, this desire to make myself better can turn into a "self-criticism fest" or a perfect recipe for envying others.
More often than not, I find that most of us envy or aspire to be someone who only looks like they have it all. Years ago, when I did a workshop on relationships, the seminar leader had us do a simple exercise.
He asked us to pick someone (or they picked us) to work with as a partner. The woman who selected me was beautiful, poised and articulate...natch! Especially since I was feeling a little "shlubby" that day.
I groaned when the teacher told us that the exercise was going to be unconditional listening about a difficulty or challenge each person was having with someone in their life. The task then was not to respond directly to your partner but to recount what their share brought up for you.
Going through my head is: this woman probably has no real difficulties at all...with that perfect figure, gorgeous clothes, angelic features...probably lives in a mansion with a wealthy, handsome husband, has a great job and, of course, the perfect kids.
Lo and behold, when it came her time to share with me, the other "person" who was causing her the most difficulty was a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! Turns out she was totally obsessed with food, had been bulimic for years, and it was ruining her life - her husband was leaving her, she was totally lonely and isolated, and she was convinced she was responsible for her autistic son's condition. I was flabbergasted.
My problems paled in comparison. As it turned out, she was a great teacher to me of compassion as well as to not trust my first impressions about someone I think has a life on "easy street." Reminds me of a quote that is often attributed to Plato: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."
Well, whoever said it deserves a very big thank you! For truer words were never uttered...understand this and somehow our fears of failure in the eyes of someone else dissipate and our sense of inadequacy melts away and we realize that none of us are alone or singularly challenged on this rocky climb of life!