The other day I overheard a conversation between two women at work that made me see an ugly green monster. I’m sure you’ve seen it too. That monster usually goes by the name of jealousy. As experienced and accomplished as I have become in my own right, that ugly green monster sometimes rears its ugly head. The two women were young, and one of them recently completed her Master’s in Public Administration. The other woman asked if her friend was going to pursue a doctoral degree, and her friend promptly replied that she planned on it so that she could finish all her goals before she got married and had kids. She added afterwards that she didn’t want to be tied down, since she would feel like she had not succeeded in all she had wanted to. This last comment is what made me see that green monster.
I was tempted to turn around and tell this young woman that I had also done all those things AND I was married and have children. I wanted her to know I had accomplished them as well. I stopped myself from turning around in the hallway and unleashing my verbal list of qualifications on this poor lady, especially since I wasn’t supposed to be listening in on their conversation anyway. Why was it so important to toot my horn? I had to ask myself this, and it bothered me that I couldn’t figure it out. God has a funny way of showing me answers to my why questions. I often compare myself to others, falsely believing that if another woman is accomplishing something then that meant there would be nothing left for me. That simply is not true.
As author of The Last Prophet book series and other fiction book titles, I have had to learn to be happy for the success of other fellow authors. We all have a passion for writing and sharing the stories inside of us. If one author succeeds, it does not mean that others will not. It simply means that some people liked what they read. Someday that success will come to us other authors. In the meantime, it serves no purpose to feel jealous or to feel like a failure. I like to refer to this bond with other authors as the Fellowship of Writers. I took it one step further after listening to several women who are also successful. I call it the Sisterhood of Success. Instead of comparing ourselves to other people, it would be much healthier to compare ourselves to an earlier version of ourselves. Rather than looking outside of oneself, we should look inside and to our past self to make the comparison.
In an article by Sonya Derian for Tiny Buddha (see full blogpost at http://tinybuddha.com/blog/stop-comparing-yourself-to-others), Derian gives reasons why we should stop comparing ourselves to others and instead focus on being a better version of ourselves. One way to begin focusing on ourselves is to ask: How have I continued to become a better or improved version of myself? By asking the question how, it forces us to see the steps or the process we have gone through to be the best person we could be. Derian also states that no amount of affirmations or compliments will be meaningful to us, until we are able to be okay with ourselves. Essentially, we have to love ourselves and be okay with who and what we are before we can expect others to feel that way about us.
So instead of comparing myself to other women, I am choosing to be proud and happy with myself, and choosing to cheer on and affirm my sisters in their successes. I lose nothing from cheering them on, just as I gain nothing from shooting them down. We are all just trying to be okay with ourselves.
Much like the young woman earlier in the week, I also have an advanced degree, and several years ago I had begun my doctoral degree. However, life happens, and I found myself unable to fulfill that dream of a doctorate. When my life became “full” with two autistic children, an unemployed husband, and aging and sickly parents, I had to make several sacrifices. Did I want a doctorate? Yes. Did I need it to be successful in the career and the life I lived? No, but it would have felt really good to tout it in front of people who judged me. When that ugly green monster of jealousy reared its ugly head, I had to quickly check myself. Why was I feeling jealous? I knew it was coming from a place of self-criticism.
No, I didn’t complete my doctoral program, but I gave it up in order to be the best mom and wife I could be while having the career I have. Am I as free to travel, go out to concerts, or be as spontaneous to just “leave” whenever I want? No, but I am living an adventure in and of itself with both of my autistic sons, and we are creating lasting memories as a family. Did I compromise my dreams? Yes, but I traded them in for something even better, and I know this to be true whenever I hear my children laughing as they play or give me hugs. Compared to the woman I was 20 years ago, I am even more successful than I could have dreamed of, and I am a better person than I was 20 years ago.
I Am patient; more patient than I could’ve ever thought I could be. I Am strong; stronger than I was as a younger woman without a family. I Am accomplished; my success is not determined by material goods or fame, but rather in memories, my reputation and integrity, and the joy in my heart. I Am happy; happier because I live a lot simpler life despite troubles that may come my way. Because I am able to affirm and be okay with myself, I am able to contribute to the Sisterhood of Success, and be content with hearing others’ successes.
Do you need to stop comparing yourself to others? Are you the person today you wanted to be 3, 5, or 10 years ago? How will you affirm others in their success? Comment in the space provided.
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