Staying in my own lane.
Don’t compare yourself to others, let them inspire you.
I get Elle magazine each month. It’s not exactly my choice but it’s one of those free perks that comes with one of my bank accounts. Everything they’re pushing is ridiculously expensive, but I like the glossy pictures and it looks quite nice on my coffee table! Anyway, the editor’s letter this month was talking about how some people had used 2020 to “break up with their old lives” and start a fresh. You know, quitting their city job with a six figure salary to move to the country and starting a small business from home. Those sorts of big life changes.
This set off a week of emotional meltdowns for me. You see I didn’t break up with my old life in 2020. I didn’t realise that I was supposed to! Sure, my life doesn’t look exactly the same as it did in 2019 (whose does?!). I’ve definitely made a few changes in 2020 for the better…or at least in the pursuit of the things that I’ve wanted but previously been too scared to do. I’ve started writing regularly on here, signed a contract on a little side hustle (that I’d been meaning to do for years) and asked out a very handsome guy (a turn around from my pre-pandemic attitude of swearing off love).
At the end of 2020 I felt that, despite the chaos brought by COVID, I had still grown and moved forward in important ways. I was quite pleased with my progress, but reading that others had gone further has left me doubting whether what I’ve done is enough! As we begin (hopefully!) to emerge back into something that resembles normality, I am beginning to wonder if I’ve missed a big opportunity to change my life radically! Did I waste this once in a lifetime opportunity to turn things around in a big way?
I suppose I didn’t feel the need to change because I liked my life going into the pandemic. I like where I live. I don’t have any desire to quit city life for the country. I like my job. I have no desire to ditch it. In fact I’m interested in seeing how far I can go in the organisation. I love my family and friends, the adventures we go on together, the talking and sharing over coffee and dinners and walks in the park. Maybe 2020 has served to confirm that my life was pretty good and that there was no need to make any big changes? Maybe it’s a sign that I had it about right beforehand?
Perhaps, upon reading that article, I’ve just fallen victim to that thing we all seem to do…the comparison with others. What we used to call ‘keeping up with the Jones’. The constant ‘compare and contrast’ activity with the lives of others to try work out if we’re falling behind or getting ahead. It’s very easy to compare yourselves with others, particularly those that are very similar to you. I don’t know the science, but I understand that there is a function of the brain that is constantly trying to work out and judge our position in relation to others around us.
I’ve always been an advocate of ‘staying in your own lane’. Keeping your focus on where you are going and not worrying what others around you are doing. Everyone’s journey (slight cringe at the use of that word) is unique and it’s not fair to you, or to them for that matter, to make comparisons with others. I always tell that to friends and colleagues when I see that they are comparing themselves with others, but as usual I’m terrible at taking my own advice!
However, I think there is a space for looking at other’s lives and using their successes or choices or actions as inspiration for your own life. Not trying to copy or emulate them (this never works as everyone’s story is unique) but learning from their mistakes, learning from their experience and being inspired by seeing them doing all sorts of things that you want to do. In this way, I am using the ‘compare and contrast’ exercise to help drive me forward on my own path. I don’t feel bad that I don’t have what they have or feel threatened by their successes. I feel somewhat uplifted and comforted that all those things that I want from life, there are people out there already doing them and succeeding. I just need to take a deep breath, be courageous and get going!