Day 7: Comparisons

16 Feb

I just finished a book called My Brilliant Friend, by the Italian novelist Elena Ferrante.

In a word, it was brilliant.

Dazzling, full of life and verve, peopled with complex characters, the book is really a vision. It tells the story of two best friends–surrounded by a huge cast of other characters–who  seem to always compare themselves to each others.

The My Brilliant Friend title could actually refer to both of the characters (who go from childhood to adolescence in this first book of a quadrilogy). One is beautiful and mesmerizing; the other is plain, but smart and driven.

At different moments in the novel, they would like to be the other person. They envy each others’ lives, even though they don’t always let the other know.

They compare.

This, in our own lives, is something we do on a daily basis as well.

She’s so much more successful than I am, we say.

I wish I had a marriage like theirs, we lament.

If only my hair would do what hers does, we wish.

If only…if only…if only…my life would be so much better.

The thing is, though, that those men and women and children and families who others think are perfect…they also struggle with self-worth; they often wish they were someone else.

I try to remind myself of this when I begin to think less of myself, or when I see my daughters compare themselves to others.

I also often remember a girl who I went to junior high with; she was a cheerleader with a ravishing smile and a beautiful mane of wild blonde hair.

Many of my fellow acne-ridden teenagers without dates probably looked at her and wondered how their lives would be different if they had her smile, and hair, and life.

I later discovered that she had tried to end her own life.

How tragic, I remember thinking when I heard of it.

Although I didn’t know the details of her situation, I remember thinking at the time how sad it was. If only someone had told her that she didn’t have to be perfect; if only people had reached out to her instead of thinking, automatically, that she had it all together.

We can look at others and think, oh how brilliant they are, when in fact we really need to be reminded of how loved they and we are.

Comparisons do no good for anyone–for the person comparing, and for the person they are comparing themselves to.

In essence, comparisons say that one person is better than another. That one person’s life has more validation. That one look, or career, or talent, or relationship is superior.

We each are unique, yes, but we each are valued and loved.

So, on this day (when, maybe, things didn’t go as well as I would have liked and I may be feeling a little sorry for myself) I will not compare.

I won’t think that someone else’s life is more brilliant than my own.

I will rest in the knowledge that I am loved.

And brilliant in my own way.


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