When I was 13, I lived with my grandparents and cousin one summer. I looked up to my cousin, who was four years older than me. She had just graduated from high school. I wanted to do everything she did. Other family members teased her about having me around as a shadow. Once, we were riding in the car and someone mentioned how much I was turning into her. When there was a pause in the conversation, I used her catchphrase, “Yeah buddy!”, which got everyone laughing.
Of course, influence is power. The things we absorb unconsciously or intentionally can affect a lot of who we are and who we become. A big part of this is who we tend to compare ourselves to and attempt to emulate. While incorporating traits I respect of others into my own life can be pretty healthy, I realize that I might also be emulating someone else in hopes of getting the same outcome or life that they did.
Media uses this all the time in advertising. Every commercial promises happiness, fulfillment, and acceptance if we just buy into that one idea or product that they are selling. We do the same thing with the people around us, sometimes without even knowing it. We see a happy family, well-behaved children, a successful career, or supporting friendships, and we want that. So we do what they do. We take on similar jobs, similar behaviors, get involved in similar things. But we can only do what is similar, not the same.
Maybe they have had to make sacrifices that you don’t know about, maybe things were made available to them because of situational luck, or maybe it’s not as perfect as it seems on the outside. The truth is, you are you and they are them. Your life and calling, even if it is similar to theirs, is not the same. You are going to get to do things and have a history that they will never experience (and more often than not, they secretly also wish they could do the things you can or will do).
We want to accepted and loved for who we are, and yet when we see others being accepted and loved, we want to do whatever it was that they did to reach that point. Even if it means sacrificing who we really are. But we do so much harm to ourselves, thinking that we are not good enough to have our own journey and that God’s plan isn’t good enough for our lives. As Judy Garland said, “Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”
Ultimately, you have a journey to take that is unique. It’s honestly scary to be you because it’s an uncharted road, that only you will ultimately travel. But if you spend your time trying to be someone else, no matter how awesome that person, their life, and their outcome are, you are keeping the world from knowing your own effect on it. Although you can gather inspiration and advice from others, your life is special just by itself, and you will do amazing things with it.
Have you ever struggled with comparing yourself to someone else?