Will You be Intimidated or Inspired?
When it comes to following people on various social media platforms, I often feel conflicted when shown something amazing they have made or accomplished. Whether it's a gorgeous clay creation, a fabulous outing a friend has taken her kids on, or a clever home renovation project, it can be a toss-up as to whether I will predominantly feel intimidated and insecure or whether I'll be inspired. Which side of the coin I land on is completely dependent on my attitude and how comfortable I am in my own skin. I realize that people show their highlights more than failures on social media, but I'm not as concerned about their transparency as I am my own emotional reactions. Ideally, I'd default to celebrating with people and sharing in the joy rather than the feelings of envy that result from a combination of a competitive and insecure nature. I don't like this side of me, and I think it's rooted in fear.
As a kid, my mentality was probably to be the best and do things correctly or go home, which is why I rarely participated in sports once I tried something out and was faced with my limitations. I finally got to pitch a softball game, but gave it up after a tournament against the girls from Tyner who made me feel like a sack of bread flour next to a 10 lb bag of Russet potatoes. I tried junior high soccer, but only one season in and having barely made contact with the ball, I was done. I tried high school track, but other than making the biggest butt and leg sweat prints on the spongy surface while stretching, I was never going to achieve in that sport either. Did I enjoy them? I don't know. I was too overwhelmed at not being great.
I worked my way through the drama circuits, I worked my way through AP art, I worked my way through AP English and writing scores of depressing poetry, but the creative side of me was nothing profound either. There were way "deeper" girls who didn't mind drawing nudes or using curse words in their poetry, and as a high school creative, you just can't compete with nudes and cussing, so I eventually backed off that.
And so I ended up in Engineering. Numbers are tangible and you either get the answer right or wrong. However in academics, it's a whole new playing field, and inevitably there is some measure of success or achievement just out of grasp. There is always someone with more accolades. There is a level of intellect that makes you feel as smart as a dung beetle. There is a famous academic whom people just flock to, tells great jokes and manages to land all the grants. Fortunately I never got to see how I competed in this realm before I had kids.
I had a friend explain that if happiness is dependent on wins, life is going to be very sad and disappointing. While I may occasionally win (and I suppose the concept of "winning" in life is sort of a nebulous concept), there are going to be many more times I won't. So the question I have to ask myself is, "When someone else wins, how do I react? If I am not excited for them, does that mean I was subconsciously competing against them?" Ugh. I don't want to be that person. That person gives up before ever pushing through the pain. That person is a fair-weather friend. That person would even call herself a "band-aid" friend - you know the one... she only shows up when needed. That person has to push people down in order to feel elevated and wears resentment just behind a skin-deep smile.
Is this entirely my fault that I'm wired this way? I don't know. I do know that as early as kindergarten my oldest son could give me a list of the best readers in his class, who was the tallest, who was the fastest, etc. I try to remind my own kids regularly that while I am proud of their accomplishments, I love them because they are mine, not because of what they can do. I try to encourage my boys to build each other up rather than constantly comparing their skills or even tattling to somehow make them look like the better one. At the same time, their competitive nature drives them to work hard, explore new books and topics, and occasionally helps me convince them to eat a vegetable.
Sometimes, I hold myself back from going deeper in my creative pursuits because I don't want to feel that burn of competition in my blood because I KNOW I won't measure up. It's the bad kind of competitive feeling - the one that says you have to be the best to even bother at all. But sometimes, when I get caught up in inspiration, I lose sight of myself. I dive into the process. I browse through photo galleries. I get excited when I see something simply amazing. Instead of feeling like, "Gosh, I'll never measure up," I think, "Oh my goodness, that's genius!" When I pause to look back at years of photo evidence of my own work, I see progress!
So... what if I instead of being intimidated, I allowed myself to be inspired? What if beauty in the world was not a reflection of my own standing in it but was there to probe me on in exploring and growing? What if I were to let go of any deep-seated disappointments I carry, flush the losses, and rise up from the pity party I've been throwing? I'm learning to accept that I will always be bested in every category except one, which is being me. Being a novice, being off-trend, being better at teaching than doing, it's all okay so long as I'm being true to myself and not living in fear.