Yesterday I was hanging a picture. It was in one of those frames with the fussy little bendy pieces of metal that hold down the backing, the kind that cut you if you use your fingers instead of a tool and break after you bend them too many times. The really annoying kind. I finally ended up attaching the backing with bright blue painter’s tape and calling it good. When I turned it around and hung it, voila! It looked fantastic.
And that’s when I realized: this picture frame is a lot like life.
Who doesn’t spend too much of their life looking at someone else and thinking, “If only I were them.”
You would have a sweeter car, a nicer house, a better spouse, a more gratifying/glorious job, whatever. These thoughts are powerful, pulling us out of happiness, out of the present, and away from achieving our own dreams. They can eat away at us, especially when we compare ourselves to truly unmatchable models: I will never have Jennifer Lawrence’s hair; I will never have one of the Internet’s most popular blogs; I will never run an ultramarathon or have legs that look like pistons.
The thing to remember, though, is that you are seeing only the picture frame. The people we compare ourselves to hide their faults the same way we do. Their career paths contain humiliating setbacks we probably don’t know about. We might not see them in sweats with their hair in a moppy bun, but they rock that style in just the same way.
They are hiding their blue tape.
So why spend so much time trying to match ourselves up? The next time you see someone’s amazing vacation photos on Facebook, or are grinding your teeth as you hear about their career success, or are licking your lips over their new significant other, stop. Remind yourself that you have attributes others admire and wish for too, and that this isn’t healthy behavior. At the most, let yourself be inspired. At the least, remind yourself that they are them, and you are you, and nothing will change that. Which is a good thing.