Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
“Why aren’t I more…?” You’ve finished the question; we all have. You remember when. You looked at someone who was more accomplished, attractive, healthier, popular, etc. and you felt like less.
I’ve been both the target and the projector of jealousy. Of course, I didn’t name it “jealousy” when I was sending it out. I thought I was being honest. I’m really not as (fill in the blank) as (fill in the blank). I was actually beating myself up for being me. Bad choice.
I’m not someone who collects volumes written by people who admonish me to be authentic and love myself. I thought I was doing that. But then that one day came—the day when I looked at someone who seemed to be doing better, and I couldn’t stop that crabby feeling in my stomach, the one that makes me despair. The difference was this time I recognized what I was doing.
Recently, my husband bought a book on his Kindle entitled LIES THEY TEACH IN SCHOOL by Herb Reich. One section was about Horatio Alger, a role model who has been displayed on an imaginary pedestal to all of us for years—his name synonymous with success and achievement because of his many novels about poor boys who rose to middle-class comfort through hard work, determination, courage, and honesty. When you say someone’s life was an example of a “Horatio Alger story,” we know what that means. It means someone has struggled and worked his or her way to the top. The name reminds us that we could do better. Like the dreadful evaluation forms that assume people achieve more when they’re criticized, the name was used to shove us forward. YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH YET!
What we didn’t know was the actual man Horatio Alger died a failure. According to Reich, “He was unsuccessful at almost everything he tried”: editing a periodical, owning a curio shop, writing adult fiction, writing plays, creating a children’s theater, and even serving as a Unitarian minister. (“He was removed, charged with ‘unnatural familiarity with boys.’”) Alger “…had few friends, never married, sired no children.” He died in poverty.
To me, the moral of this story is we’re all human. Each of us has a different journey down a different path. Most of us have no clue how successful we are at whatever we’re here on this Earth to accomplish. Even if you don’t believe we’re here for any higher purpose, you still don’t know who you’ve touched and what effect the ripples of that interaction might have had far beyond your knowing. With the possible exceptions of certain religious figures, no one is perfect. No one should be held as a model, nor should anyone be beaten up with someone else’s image or glorious words. Your journey is your own. Let others inspire you, but don’t let them intimidate you.
Exactly why we need more kindness, for others and ourselves.