1989 BOMBAY, INDIA
Most of my working days involved me pounding the pavements in the humid heat of Bombay as a sales engineer. Complete with tie and briefcase and looking every inch the typical salesman, I would find myself calling on clients who had plush offices in multi-storeyed apartment buildings that formed part of Bombay’s skyline. These buildings housed a mix of upmarket residences and stylish, exclusive offices.
If you looked at these buildings from outside, they’d all look fairly identical – like honeycombs housing hundreds of apartments in each building and many such skyscrapers next to each other. So we’re talking over thousands of apartments in one ‘colony’ or ‘society’ as it was called.
An interesting paradox of a city like Bombay (I’m sure there’ll be many other such cities in different parts of the world) is that the super-rich live in close physical proximity to the super-poor, albeit in completely different environments. And the middle-class are also in the mix! These different worlds are close to each other in terms of physical distance, and yet so far apart.
Even though they occupy radically different worlds in terms of lifestyles, the lives of the rich and famous jostle with the poverty-stricken lives of the poor. When the gleaming luxury cars of the wealthy turn out of the high gates of their homes, they drive right past the run-down shacks of the poorest sections of society!
IDENTICAL, YET UNIQUE
Isn’t it true and quite thought-provoking that we often understand the meaning of something only in hindsight? We are unable to look for deeper meaning as we go through an event or a phase because we’re too involved in the present. When we look back into our past, we might find a different realization from what we experienced at the time.
Today when I think of that scene - so many skyscrapers in one area with similar houses, I find myself thinking about how every single house would have its own story. And right opposite these apartment buildings are the slums where people at the other end of the societal spectrum struggle to eke out a living. The different sections of society with their stories, their joys, their sorrows…the story of each dwelling would be unique, wouldn’t it?
The lives of the people living at the mercy of the weather in shanty one-room tenements in a slum, with temporary plastic or thatched roofs - how different would their hopes, aspirations, and dreams be from those of their counterparts at the other end of the socio-economic ladder?
If we expand this thought right out to the cosmos, we’re looking at billions of unique life stories. The beginning, the journey, the end – ‘one in billions’ is what each story would be, right? Yet, we find that there’s a tendency to compare between ourselves that leaves us with nothing but insecurity, low self-worth, jealousy, envy…a whole lot of unnecessary and unhelpful emotions!
One of the most common feelings we experience when comparing with someone else tends to be “why me?”. We feel that we always get the rough end of the stick – luck is never on our side. This can lead to a lot of frustration. I know this feeling only too well!
When going through a serious attack of “comparisonitis”, we might have thoughts like “I know life is meant to be full of ups and downs, but how come my life has only downs?” or “If every dog has its day, when will my day arrive?”.
Do these thoughts seem familiar to you?
If you have these thoughts, don’t worry my friend – you’re just being human.
All you need to do is recognize them and change the thought pattern of your mind. Try and visualize your life situation in the following ways as you reframe your mindset to tackle the tendency to compare.
SHIPS AT SEA
Every one of us is like the captain of a ship at sea. Our ships (lives) might sail in the same body of water (world) but the waves and the winds that hit our ship are all unique. The waves, winds, or storms that our individual ships have to contend with are all one of a kind.
So if you feel that your ship is in choppy waters or in a raging storm, don’t look at another ship in the distance and think “why is this happening to me?”. It is what it is. Your ship has to sail through the waters that you are faced with. And you as the captain have the responsibility to navigate your ship to its destination. You could be inspired by other captains’ abilities or other ships’ journeys but NOT feel despondent about where you find yourself relative to others.
I’M A STAR!
We are all lead actors in the films of our lives. If a biopic was made on your life, how would it look? You would obviously be the lead actor, but guess what – you are already in that film! You’re acting in it right now!!
Not only the main lead, but you’re also the writer and director of this film.
You are primarily responsible for how this film turns out. There might be other characters in your film, some positive and some negative, that come and go but since you are the scriptwriter and director of this movie, you hold the power!
So when the going gets tough and you feel tempted to compare, think of your life as a film that is all about you. Be prepared to change the script if needed!
If you’re at a stage in your life where you find yourself continually going down the rabbit hole of comparison leading to despair, frustration, and lack of motivation, maybe it’s time we had a chat to see if I can help. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org