I recently wrote an article for Yoga and Spa Magazine about comparing yourself to others, and how it never really works out. It’s stuck in my head, and I went to a bar tonight (which I never do anymore) and was watching all of the people while thinking about this. There were scantily clad dancers working there, and my feminism backed up on me. Misogyny! Right? Maybe? The guys were wearing jeans and t-shirts and the women were wearing crop tops, bikini bottoms, assless chaps and cowboy boots. Then I started thinking about friends who paid their way through college as exotic dancers, and wondered if the chaps girls were paid well or unionized. My brain, I swear. I thought about the shitty jobs I’ve had in the past – and was glad to have – because I had to pay the bills, and how if my ass were a little smaller I might grab some chaps if I needed to make a buck, you know? And how was I to know they were happy or unhappy? All I could see was the surface.
In this Pinterest-Perfect, Facebook-Fantastic world, it’s difficult to see that not every smile is real, and that we don’t have the slightest idea of people’s true lives or motivations. I had a client once who was first an acquaintance. Friend of a friend, you know? I would see her at happy hours and parties and goddamn, I was so envious of this woman. Perfect figure, absolutely gorgeous, great job, dating amazing men, traveling – I mean, I would listen to her talk and start re-evaluating my life choices. Then, I gave her a reading. She had a serious eating disorder, was pressured into her job by her parents because it was her family business, and hadn’t had a relationship longer than 6 months – ever- because she lived with her very sick and dying father. It was only when she could get respite care that she could travel, and it was only ever for a weekend here or there. And she paid for travel with money from her mother’s life insurance because her mom died.
When I found these things in her reading, we started talking. For the first time, really. Most readings with me turn into conversations. Anyway, she said she’d always been so envious of me. She said I was strong, and had a beautiful family and seemed so confident and self-assured.
What. The. Fuck.
So here we have two smart women, burning with jealousy for the grass on the other side of the fence, while ignoring the fact that they’re actually doing pretty ok themselves. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why it is so easy for us to hold up our lives to someone else’s and start those wonderful comparisons. When I think about it in the abstract, I feel like a fucking idiot.
In all of the readings that I’ve given, the happiest people that I’ve ever met DON’T DO THIS. They compare themselves to THEMSELVES. They look at their lives ten years ago, five years ago, one year. They look at Yester-Them and see what growth they’ve experienced and how hard they’ve worked to achieve authenticity in their lives. In short, I’ve found that comparing myself to others is for chumps, and I don’t do it anymore.
I think that I know why we’re such idiots in this regard. Watching those girls dance tonight and trying to suss out the motivation for what some people might see as degrading work. I realized that the similarities between the chaps girls and my acquaintance was this – I didn’t know them. Not the first things about them.
I barely knew my acquaintance and made assumptions based on what I saw, not what I knew. I trusted my perceptions as truth because experience informs our opinions. As my father says, opinions are like assholes. Everyone has one and no one thinks that theirs stinks. It is SO easy to look at someone and decide we know them. We take in the clothing, the posture and decide who that person is. We KNOW them, so we don’t have to ask questions or invest time in finding out who they really are – because we’re always right, right?
It’s easy to dismiss people when we don’t try. I think that some politicians have made a living of this. Poor people are lazy, Mexicans are criminals, Muslims are terrorists and women are easily confused while on their periods. After a person says shit like this, he can dismiss people he doesn’t like, understand or care about. Sweeping generalizations are great for the person making them.
I could write about this forever, but it’s late and I’m afraid I’ll start using bad words while talking about bigots and racists and homophobes. My point is that if we took some time to get to know people before deciding we’ve got them pegged, we might be less likely to treat our own lives and achievements with disdain.
OR – now here’s a treat – we could just mind our own damned business. As I was watching those women tonight, I realized that I’d probably spent a half an hour thinking about why they were working there. They weren’t harming anyone and I easily could have just minded my business and enjoyed my evening. Revolutionary, I swear.
So, let’s tie this with the Judgement card. In Tarot, Judgement comes after the Sun. The Sun follows the Moon. Since tarot is really just storytelling, it could read like this.
Once upon a time, a person was afraid that they weren’t good enough. The fear ate at them and messed with them and occasionally turned them into an asshole. Then one day, the Sun came out and brought all of the hidden things to light. They saw that their life was just as glorious and shiny as everyone else’s, and that everyone else had their own difficulties. That were are all of us broken, and the less time we spend worrying about other’s brokenness, the more time we have to fix our own. With all of the light shining down, they realized that the only use they had for Judgement was to weigh their growth and kindness throughout the years, and to be sure that they were always striving to be a better version of themselves. The End.
US Games – Rider Waite Smith