Stay within yourself,not the other girls.
My mother, bless her good intentions, never had any confidence in the advice she gave me when I was growing up. Whenever I asked her what I should do in a particular situation she would respond by saying, “what are the other girls doing?”
I would ask, “Mom, what do you think I should wear on the first day of school?” She would say, “What are the other girls wearing?”
“Mom, where do you think I should go this summer?”
“Where are the other girls going?”
“Mom, do you think I should drive a truck full of explosives into the house?”
“What are the other girls doing with their trucks?’
Through these dialogues I inadvertently learned to constantly compare myself to the other girls. Some of the things I did because all the other girls were doing them included: having a sweet sixteen party, going to sleep-away camp, attending college out of town and working in a corporate environment.
I can’t really blame my mother. From the arms race to the latest reality show competition,we are a planet of people who make comparisons. Measuring up starts when we are young children and realize our toys are not as cool as our playmates’. It doesn’t let up until we are near death and wonder if our relatives are going to put us in a nicer box than the one Aunt Grace was stuffed in.
At middle age, I now realize that comparing myself to others only depresses me. I compare how I feel to how other people look. And they usually look better than I feel. Many people are like this. We are all so shocked when those who appear to have it all like celebrities, happy soccer moms and beautiful brides implode before our very eyes with their true feelings put on public display by the media.
Comparison shopping ourselves is also a no-win proposition because there is always going to be someone who is smarter, wealthier, prettier, thinner or less likely to fart in public than we are. With 7.5 billion people on this earth, how can there not be someone with at least better flatulence cred?
We never seem to dwell on the droves of people who are doing worse than we are, even if we see images of them parade nightly across our television screens and tablets. That is just another nasty little trick our minds play on us.
It is by doing what sports psychologists call staying”staying within you”. You should be capitalizing on your own strengths rather than focusing on a competitor’s gifts and trying to copy his or her style and form. By staying within themselves athletes invariably play better and often win championships.
Actors likewise stay within themselves when they refuse to watch an iconic performance (i.e., Lawrence Olivier in Hamlet, James Stewart in Harvey) before tackling a role and putting their own unique spin on it. By staying within themselves,thespians win accolades. Whoever you are and whatever you do,staying within yourself is the only way to ensure victory when it comes to life satisfaction.
Now I am at peace with the fact that,unlike the other girls,I do not have human kids (I opted for four-legged furry children).
My kids give me unconditional love, need very little guidance and don’t make me worry excessively by spending all of their waking hours staring vacantly into some type of device—or huffing Adderall. How many two-legged children can you say that about?
I do not get pedicures. I have always found something repugnant about having a stranger, whom I could care less about, slaving away at my distorted toes while I get lost in the latest edition of Vogue or blab on my cell refusing to even acknowledge the lowly nail technician’s existence.
Some of you may be turned off by my life choices. I can only say this, if women all felt exactly the same way and did exactly the same thing at exactly the same time the lines at the ladies room would be even longer than they are now. And we would all be in pursuit of the same man as a marriage partner.
How maddening would that be? My mother doesn’t ask me what the other girls are doing anymore. I guess because she figures that by now I must know what they are doing and that I just don’t give a damn.
Wendy Aron has written for publications nationwide, including The New York Times and Newsweek. She is an award winning humorist (Society of Professional Journalists) and comic memoir author. Wendy is working on a collection of humorous essays for Baby Boomers. Samples of her work can be read at www.wendyaron.com.
Editor: Carrie S.