In the spirit of mental health awareness month, here’s a post about something that eats away my confidence and self – esteem.
So I felt this a little strongly some time last week.
The day I can remember clearly fell apart like this. I woke up as early as I should be expected to during this lockdown, which is to say around 11am. I had my plan ready; do some washing, do some reading, a whole lot more writing and some general living.
For the first two hours I was awake everything was going great. I did my washing with the music so loud and the weather in perfect agreement with my decision. After that was done, I came in to check a few messages on social media- see what the world is up to, and get on with my day.
I instead got lured in by everyone’s progress.
You are probably wondering what progress people could possibly making in this time. Well, I must speak on behalf of my friends, some great things are coming out of this lockdown.
Especially the online endeavours.
Blogs and vlogs that are making big strides in this time. People whose passions are paying off and developing at untold rates. The first thing that popped up in my head was not ‘yay, friends, you are killing it. Keep going.’ It was a shallow me-centered depressive thought, ‘and what of me!!!? Why won’t I amount to anything more?’.
I went right through the happiness spectrum, from enthusiast to downright depressed, in a matter of seconds.
I woke up so excited about the things I had planned out for my day and seeing others’ success kept me from redeeming my time. I just sulked and thought to myself, ‘oh see how better off they are. You won’t be getting there anytime soon.’
Must sound like the one talent guy from the Parable of the Talents who just went on to bury their talent like I buried my time. Ignoring to work with what we’ve got. I’ve listened to a sermon on this called Flip the Bag. Pastor Steven Furtick tells it in an interesting way, the guy with one talent was probably so excited to have his one talent till he bumped into one with more and decided to bury his instead. And he went on to say he had asked a number of people which of the three servants they think they are. I haven’t carried out this survey but I expect the answer would be the same. None of the people saw themselves as the five talent servant. We are quicker to see the ‘five talent’ in some one else than in ourselves.
But comparison is enticing right, we always want to know how we measure up against someone else. Are we doing just a little better than our neighbours? It doesn’t matter that no one is taking score, our ego will easily count the tally. And sometimes we probably assure ourselves that we are just looking (because we know how bad looking and thinking about people’s ‘perfect’ lives can be) and won’t give it more thought than we should.
Then we find ourselves coming back to it. Seeing picture-perfect glimpses into everyone’s life till our defenses against comparison are broken down. Till we can hardly breathe through the onslaught of the ‘things going wrong’ in your life. And this works the other way too, if we are looking at things that beef up our status in life.
It crossed my mind though, how silly it is for us to judge without the ‘behind the scenes’ story. Rather than fall into a slump, I could ask how they are getting there and what I need to change but the comparison trap is not always that rational.
Because I know I’m so prone to this, I take social media vacations every once in a while. When my head feels like it can’t take anymore. My mental health desperately needs this. While I’m so invested in other people’s lives, I forget (maybe not forget but just ignore) to live my own and work on my own talents.
So, that’s easy to do when they live so far from you. What about if these are your own housemates and you have to deal with their successes or failures on a constant. We are human after all right? And its easier to say that you have your own road and own journey and all those band aids we have for why life is not flowing the way you think it should! But what happens then, when you can’t run from your poor talents or can’t keep faking excitement at success leaps you deeply wish were yours?
There are two assured outcomes of comparison, either you will feel worse and inadequate or you’ll be puffed up with pride. Both of these though are poison to your mental health.
We each have our own parts to play. I think the Bible is always finding a way to put this across, with the parts of a body analogy in 1 Corinthians 12 and the jars of clay for different purposes. Pieces of a puzzle lending to a bigger Don’t ignore your uniqueness.