When I was a kid, my mom taught me three important things that have served me well in my adult life:
1) do your best not to take on other people’s negative crap; it’s their crap, not yours.
2) it’s okay if your house is a little messy; it probably means you have better things to do than clean.
and, most importantly,
3) keep the focus of your energy on what you can control; in other words, mind your own business.
About two months ago, I wrote this piece about comparison. I got so many emails about that essay that I wasn’t able to respond to all of them. Apparently, my experience touched a cord: except the most enlightened among us, we all fall into the dark pit of comparison from time to time. You all had a lot to say about it.
In this day and age of the interwebs and social media platforms, comparison isn’t something that happens occasionally at school or work. It’s something we are potentially confronted with every single day — when we look at Facebook and Twitter, Instagram and blogs. “So-and-so’s life is better or more interesting than mine” or “so-and-so’s work is more beautiful or exciting than mine.”
This is where minding your own business comes in. Earlier this week I had a bout of stomach turning anxiety while reading something on the internet that caused me to compare my own endeavors and accomplishments to those of some of my illustrator peers. I had to remind myself of this lovely and straightforward quote by Beatrix Potter, above: Believe there is a great power silently working all things for good, behave yourself and never mind the rest.
We all compare ourselves to others here are there, but I’ve come to believe it’s how quickly we can snap ourselves out of it when we do that matters more. For me, it’s remembering that it’s being completely myself — in my artwork, in the way I relate to people, in my unique goals and dreams for my life — that keeps me feeling grounded and makes me happy. Remembering that also frees me up to be happy for others when they accomplish something I might otherwise be jealous of. I don’t always succeed, but I am determined to try.
How do you snap yourself out of the trap of comparison? I think it’s worth thinking about. The more we all mind our own business and live (and embrace) our own unique paths, the happier we’ll be, and the more we can be genuinely happy for others. At least I think that’s the way it works.
Until next time, happy Thursday.