Sometimes I get stuck when I sit down to write. I think about the funny profundity of Anne Lamott, or the simple honesty of my friend Sarah Fragoso or the exquisitely, pointedly profound thoughts of Jen Louden and I am stopped in my tracks. I think about things that are deeply interesting and profound to me, and then I write about what I did in the month of April. What is in my garden and how my dog interacts with the neighbor. The deep thoughts just stay in there, unmentioned. In my estimation I come up short every time. Or almost every time. I want to write profound things, naked and unashamed of my position on almost anything, yet that’s not what comes out. And I judge myself as deficient. What happens then? I don’t write. Anything.
You don’t have to say it. I KNOW this is in no way productive or useful or anything else. All I’m doing is not writing. I get it. I’m just saying it’s what happens when I compare myself with someone I admire. I think this process can be expanded to other areas of our lives. My life. If I compare my body size or shape with that of someone I think is beautiful or who is very fit and strong, I will come up short, every time. If I compare my home or my (filthy) car or anything at all, if I am comparing I will come up short. So why don’t I compare myself to someone fatter or who has a less cute house or a dirtier car? Because what is the point? I don’t want to be that. I want to be my best self, and so I compare myself to those that I look up to. As an example, or a path to excellence, maybe. Or maybe just a way to remind myself that I’m still not good enough.
As a child someone in my family joked that I was fat, as ‘big as a barn.’ This was probably said one time, during a moment of levity and no one thought anything else about it. Except me. That one phrase, “big as a barn” haunted me from then on, even through adulthood. And I wasn’t fat. Not at all, not until I was maybe in my fifties. I’m not really sure when the fat happened because I always believed I was. So I spent a lifetime comparing myself to others. Looking at people who were larger than I, and feeling relief. Looking at people who were smaller than I and feeling ashamed. And feeling immobilized the whole time, because where does one start to change a lifetime issue? Mostly one doesn’t. One just thinks about it. All the time, like I did. Like I still do, but not so much since I started doing something about it last August.
So back to the writing of non-profound things, I get that that’s okay. That once in a while a gem tumbles out onto the screen. I understand that I don’t have to apologize for what I write, that those who want to read it will and the rest won’t. No big deal. But the issue here is that I don’t want my self-deprecation to get in the way of me writing, because I need to write, and I grow clearer and fuller as a result of doing so.
I am pretty sure I’m not the only person who does this comparing thing. I think we have created a culture of comparison. If we didn’t find ourselves less than someone else, why would we buy the next latest (unnecessary but oh, so cool and expensive) thing? A bigger TV or faster computer or bigger house? If we are satisfied with ourselves, if we love ourselves as we are, accepting our faults as just part of who we are, as not even faults, we might not spend the money needed to keep our culture moving. So our insecurity is fostered, capitalized on and we keep spending, hoping always that the next thing we buy will be just the thing to make us feel okay about ourselves.
I think this is true. And I fall for it. Not buying stuff so much, but I compare myself with others and come up short. So I go watch TV rather than making art, or read a book rather than writing one. Or I eat something that is guaranteed to keep me falling short in the cute body comparisons. And life just ticks along. I’d like to say I’m going to change this today, because obviously it’s not serving me, but it’s also been part of me for a long time. I can be aware of it and maybe change little pieces of it until maybe someday I notice that a shift has happened. I hope that happens, anyway, but in the meantime, I just have to own it and accept it. Love it as I learn to love the rest of myself.