I was listening to this podcast on marriage the other day (sorry I can’t remember which one it was now, otherwise I would have dropped the link) and the guy was speaking on value — recognising your spouses value, and also in it, illustrating that even though we are different, each person is valued the same (particularly in Gods eyes) — and when I was thinking about it, the questions he posed to illustrate what he was talking about are excellent in not only digging deep and changing your perspective of marriage to the way God sees it, but also life in general, because these days life is about being the biggest, toughest, fastest, and the best of them all, and if you aren’t or don’t match up it means there is something wrong with you, i.e you are not valuable enough. And it’s this idea of “not being valuable enough” that has really landed some people (myself included) in some really tricky spaces, basically: the need to constantly match up to someone or some idea. And let me just tell you, it’s not fun. So when I’ve found myself in such spaces, I’ve generally really tried to put things into perspective — you know, tell myself a few “you are enough” mantras — because the struggle is real; Gugu and I have even touched on this in a few of our previous blog posts. And so you might be thinking: exactly, you’ve spoken about this a lot before, why again? Well, because Houston, we have a problem.
I was talking to a friend the other day and what she was telling kinda made me scratch my head in distress. Okay so for starters in the podcast, the guy asked: if you have a one dollar note in one hand and two 50c coins in the other, how much money are you holding in each hand? The answer: One dollar. Then he asked, if you take the dollar note and throw it on the floor and trample on it, how much is it now worth? The answer: still one dollar. Now say you pick those two 50c coins from the gutter? What are they worth then? Same story: one dollar. He went on to ask a few more questions just like this (I just can’t repeat them because if I did I would be lying) but the answer to each of them was always one dollar. He did this to demonstrate that, we may look different, be different, and the things that have happened to us in life may be different, but ultimately we are the same; at least in Gods eyes anyway. Our value hasn’t changed just because of how we look or what has happened to us. We are all that one dollar bill, whether we come as a full note or as two 50c coins or even four 25c coins. God doesn’t love us any less or any differently and we can’t remove value from ourselves or from someone else because of difference. Great advice in marriage, and even greater for all life. And I thought about this when my friend (who is the same age as me) was telling me about the conversation she was having with her parents.
Recently her parents sat her down and told her that what she has chosen to do with her life (start and run her own business) doesn’t sound like a good idea, and that she (and I quote) “needs to compare herself to everyone who is around her age and see what they are doing and then she needs to say to herself ‘that’s what I need to be doing'”. In a nutshell, she needs to take a look at where she is, then look at where they are, and catch up. And I’m sure in their own way they were trying to be encouraging. Sometimes worry for your kids does go in to dangerous territory, I get it. And I don’t think she’s the only one whose parents have been less than understanding of the path their children have chosen to take in life. So in that sense we can give them a pass, especially when it comes to them not really understanding her choosing to be an entrepreneur. I guess a lot of our parents just don’t understand this DIY way of making money, to them security is a 9-5 job, being employed, having a steady pay check; not dancing with chance out there. And I don’t blame them for thinking that, it worked so well for them way back when. They went to school, got a good job, stayed in that job for years and years, and made a decent living for themselves (enough to have us and send us to school and make our lives comfortable). But job security doesn’t come in the same package it used to. But before I digress and start talking about how that is especially so in Zimbabwe, I will stop there. But when my friend was telling me her experience, the part that really got to me, was when her parents basically said to her “do what the people your age are doing; be like them” — here is where they should not be allowed to pass go or collect 200 because this is where they entered dangerous territory.
I’m all for being inspired by others. There is no harm in that, in fact I think it’s absolutely necessary to have people you can look up to, and aspire to be more like etc.. because at the very least it means you have ambition and a vision for your life. And how amazing is it having a group of friends that inspire each other, people you can learn from, teach to, grow with. It’s great. And outside of that, there are people who can inspire you to change your life in significant ways. So yes, inspiration is powerful. But the copy paste method is where I think “inspiration” stops being good advice and starts being questionable, because more often than not, you’ll just end up comparing yourself to others and when we compare we generally compare the things people have to the things that we don’t have. Which = disaster. And this is why I think my friends parents advice was terrible. If we were to use that dollar bill example from the podcast; even though we are all a dollar; because life isn’t one size fits all, it might take some people more effort or more time, or simply just “more”… to be that dollar, and that’s why maybe they’re two 50c coins instead, beyond that the purpose of both the dollar and 50c coins are different. We’ve all been in situations where we’ve preferred one over the other, because they’ve helped us achieve a different purpose. But regardless, it doesn’t mean they are not ultimately a dollar or, in the real life sense, that who they are and what they’ve chosen to be isn’t just as significant. Just because their path is different, or they may be “falling behind” — the way some may define falling behind — it doesn’t mean they aren’t as valuable or worth it than others who “aren’t”. I know for some falling behind may look like not being married at a certain age, or having children too young or too old, or not making a certain income, or having a particular kind of job, house etc at a certain age, which at 31 (our age) looks like: married, house, steady paying 9-5 job and a kid or two. But the real question is according to who?
My best friend has a child, and I do not. Her and my other very close friend run their own successful business and I do not. Another of my friends is able to freely and easily travel around the world and I can barely make it work for the Christmas holidays. So if anyone is counting, I guess I pretty much also don’t quite have it together for a 31 year old. Should I then be looking to these people and feel unworthy simply because I don’t have what they have or I’m not able to do what they can do? If I were to stretch it out even further and compare myself to what the other people my age are doing out there in the world, I’d be a shell. And this is what my friend was saying, that it was actually the comparing of herself to her peers that got her depressed not so long ago. And I don’t use that word lightly, I use it with the weight it actually carries. She was depressed, seeking therapy and medicating in terrible ways, and simply because she was comparing her life to her friends. And I can understand that because the thing is, if we constantly compare our lives to other’s we will never be satisfied. We’ll always feel like we have nothing, which is a sure way to cause suffering upon ourselves and end up in those places she did; depressed, feeling insignificant, unworthy etc. But the way God sees it, that is the furthest from the truth. God did not make us in a factory, on a mass production line. He took great care in making us who we were meant to be. And that person is significant. That person has a purpose. So so what if you’re not…… a one dollar note.
I’m not saying this is easy, to not compare yourself. It is SO hard, especially when 1) we measure success in dollars. If you have bucket loads of money, the more likely you are to be labelled as “successful”, and for those seeking success, that is naturally the number 1 thing they’re going strive for, money in the bank. And everybody who has said money in the bank is someone they will naturally compare themselves to. 2) we measure success in things. People who have fancy cars and houses and can take luxury vacations every so often are people to be admired, because it must mean they are incredibly successful, and again, if success is what we want, naturally we will want to have and be able to do these things too and anyone who can, we feel we are in competition with. 3) we truly desire to be something or have something. Like me with travel, if I could have any life in the world it would be one where I’m jet setting to all the beaches of the world. I would want to spend my days in fancy cabanas, taking pictures in infinity pools over looking such gorgeous views, touring old towns, and drinking mojitos all day… and so when others are able to do exactly this and I can’t, it’s hard not to think they have it better, and my life is not where it needs to be. But surely there has to be a middle ground? Surely there has to be a way to both aspire to have the life you want (money, riches, fame, love, happiness) and not feel like you have to be someone else or something else to get it? Surely there is a world in which we can feel 100% content being who we are and where we are despite what we don’t have. Because surely, life can’t just be a series of discovering just how much you are lacking and how much of a gap you need to fill between you and the next person. It’s much much more. God didn’t place you here for nothing. So, how do we then cure ourselves from our own feelings of inadequacy?
I don’t have the answers to that, but as Gugu said in one of her earlier posts this year, I believe it starts with practicing gratitude. I feel like we can all write a list mile high about the things we don’t have, or just how much we’ve been shortchanged in life, but if we were to flip the coin on that and write a list of what we do have and just how much life has been good to us, could we? How long would it take? For me, maybe a few days, I ain’t gonna lie. There was a time a short while ago that I couldn’t even think of three things to be grateful for a day, so writing a list mile high of things I’m grateful for may be quite the homework for me, but I’ll be the first to admit that there is definitely something wrong with that, and maybe why I get caught up in comparisons, because that’s where my focus is. That isn’t how it should be. So I think a sure way to be content with who you are is being grateful there is even a you to begin with, and then being grateful for the things you do have and the things you are able to do — because trust and believe there is someone out there somewhere who wishes they could have what you have too. So obviously it’s worth noting then, that what you do have is something. I think another way to move ourselves in the right direction is to remember that those we compare ourselves to have their own story. Unless they are our friends of course, more often than not we don’t know the when’s and why’s of how someone has what they have or is able to do what they do, all we do is stand on the outside looking in, and this hardly paints a complete picture. Whether good or bad, you don’t know what someone has had to go through or do to be where they are — and that’s why they say be careful what you wish for because you just might get it….. and be bloody unhappy. A good one may also be to remember that you are running your own race at your own pace. There is to timeline, and there is no deadline. There is also no “ideal” goal for your life. The last thing to remember is you are not any less than. You are not less than because your goals are different or because you are at a different stage of your life than other people. You are just as valuable as them, just as much to contribute as they do, and just as much life as they do. Please let us not pressure ourselves or allow others to do the same, because after all we are the ones who get to live this life, so we must be happy doing it our way.
Disclaimer: I’m no expert at this whole thing, in fact I think I may have even complained about my life just yesterday. So don’t hold me to anything, but I feel like it’s a good practice isn’t it? To just remember these things when we catch ourselves doing what we like to do best. So yeah friends, if in the midst of all our comparing I hope we can find the time to remind ourselves of these things, and maybe we’ll able to sleep better at night.