Have you ever been standing next to a friend and someone comes up to them and says something like “I love your hair” or “I liked your column this week” and you immediately think to yourself “well, I guess my hair looks like garbage or I guess that means my column was complete gibberish!??”
We are so insecure, so afraid of being exposed and found lacking, that we view the value of others over and against our own value.
Whether we realize it or not, this puts us in constant competition with one another. Every success of another is a condemnation of ME, a commentary on my lack of success in the same arena.
This is especially destructive in relationships because it undermines the value of togetherness. Couples are constantly in this passive-aggressive wrestling match for who is better. Who is “wearing the pants”, taking care of the house, or driving the decisions. Love becomes a boxing match rather than a partnership.
This is one of the reasons our world is so disconnected. We don’t want anyone else to succeed. We don’t really like it when other people are physically attractive or financially successful, display talent or skill or ability. We immediately view it as a loss.
We have created a world where our value is dependent on measurement against others. We are looking for “our place in the world” and when others are good at something, a spot seems to be filled. A high rung on the ladder is occupied. And where does that leave me?!
Although it is hard to accept, the value of others is complimentary to ours, not combative. Your value and the value of others is not mutually exclusive.
In fact, it enhances your value. The whole point of community – romance, friendship, social groups and circles – is that we are better together than we are apart. Nobody is a perfect person. We need one another to build each other up, to stretch beyond our individual capacities, to share burdens and triumphs alike.
We are so hard on ourselves. So unbearably hard. It is so easy for us to see how we fall short. And so easy for us to see what others have that we are lacking.
The truth is we all have something others are lacking. It feels like we are being hard on ourselves, but is actually a weird sort of inverted pride. A backwards kind of narcissism. Who said you were perfect? Who said this was all about you?
Communities (and relationships) are about collaboration. You are supposed to be a part of the puzzle. You are not the god or the king or the hero. You are a participant. We do so much harm when we hold our communities hostage, demanding it serve ME rather than figure out what great things can be done together. Their talent is not an affront to yours. It is a compliment. It is their part (not yours) to play in the community and relationships they participate in. It is not an indictment against you. It is an invitation to celebrate and come alongside.