Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Grass Isn't Always Greener

Comparing yourself to other people is a pointless ritual that does nothing but lower your self-esteem and create invaluable criticisms. People (women) do it all the time. We convince ourselves that so-and-so has a better car, house, husband, job, etc. and begin the ridiculous routine of second-guessing our own existence. Haven't we learned, finally, that the grass isn't always greener on the other side?

What we don't realize when we subject ourselves to these comparisons is that most of the time the comparison is not apples-to-apples. The surest way to ruin your self-esteem is to try to keep up with the Joneses when the Joneses are, in reality, unhappily trying to keep up with someone else. To whose level are people aspiring and why?

We don't know what goes on behind closed doors. We usually don't even have an inkling of what is going on in other people's lives. Sure, the Joneses have a new car and a new boat and well-dressed kids. But, maybe they are on the verge of bankruptcy and are buried under a mound of debt. I certainly don't aspire to be like the Joneses if it means they can't even afford all the toys they have.

Jane Doe might seem like the epitome of calm in the midst of utter chaos. Women marvel at Jane's ability to handle stress so well and wonder why they can't be more like her. Why can't I just let things roll of my back so easily and not sweat the small stuff? What we don't know is that Jane's calmness probably doesn't come from her innate ability to handle stress. Jane might hide vodka bottles in the linen closet or need medication take the edge off. Nobody is perfect.

Some people like to drop names, wear labels or constantly tell us how smart their kids are.  While these people can be annoying on so many levels, they deserve some pity, too.  I am convinced that they must be trying to fill a gaping hole in their lives they may not even know exists.  Why else would they try so hard to convince us that they are better, wealthier or smarter than everyone else?  What is really missing in their lives? 

That's why I don't care if someone else drives a fancy car, has a house with more square footage or takes exotic vacations.  I don't care someone else's kid read his first book in preschool or could speak three languages before his 5th birthday.  I'm not impressed by the continual barrage of greatness because too many people are trying to fill gaping holes.

If you are feeling less than stellar because you are surrounded by people who appear to "have it all," think again.  The grass isn't always greener. Sometimes you just have to take a closer look.


Patti said...

Good one, Kim! You always write about what is on my mind. I know many, many, many people who want what everyone else has. I had a frustrated friend ask, "how can all these people afford these huge homes and go on cruises, for spring break?" and I told her, they are most likely in debt and you are not. Feel good about that!!! It's a great goal to achieve.

(She's my neighbor in MI)

Jenny said...

I agree! We don't have much, but what we do have we appreciate. We have a newish car, a big screen tv, video game console. We have nice knives, dishes, and pots. We don't care what others have because we are happy with what we have. We want new furniture - not because someone has better but because we actually NEED it. Thanks for saying what is on a lot of our minds!

Kim Murray said...

Welcome, Jenny!

mommyonthespot said...

This is so true! I know so many people like this, and sometimes I get so annoyed with them. Other times, I do feel sorry for them.

What a well written post

sigridmacdonald said...


Thanks for this thought-provoking article. So true in so many ways most of the time, but not always, in my opinion. In general, I agree completely that it's pointless to compare ourselves to others. However, I don't think that we all play on a level field.

If my son has autism and yours doesn't, my son will have a harder life. Likewise, if my daughter is gay and yours isn't, my daughter will have a tougher time. Most of us in North America are better off than those in impoverished areas of India or Africa. Surely, any of us in countries that are at peace are better off than those in war-torn countries. And I'd rather be HIV negative than positive! You catch my drift.

Having said that, no one gets through this life unscathed. We all have something, and as you pointed out so succinctly, we can't look at people -- colleagues, neighbors -- and know what really goes on behind closed doors. Everyone is hurt in some way by life and disappointed, but hopefully, many people derive some degree of satisfaction from their lives, regardless of their challenges.

So, I do believe that the grass is greener in many instances, but we need to plod ahead anyway.


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