A Path of One’s Own

Alya Bohr, Columnist

Many of our lives are afflicted by a sense of scarcity. “I’m never enough, I never have enough,” we say. There’s an implicit desperation to acquire everything, to be the best, to finish first. How do we measure our places in this exhausting rat race? We compare. We juxtapose ourselves with the intimidatingly intelligent and talented girl with the coveted internship, or to the witty and gregarious boy with lots of friends. We go about the world subconsciously placing ourselves in an arbituary hierarchal ranking, occasionally allowing our sense of self-worth to be ground down into nothing. It’s an exhausting way to live.

At the heart of this comparison lies a desire to be perfect; a fear that if we aren’t “measuring up,” then we aren’t enough. If someone else throws the frisbee further, gets a higher grade or secures a prestigious job, we are somehow falling behind. We’re running desperately on a treadmill, glancing left and right at those around us, trying to run faster, to do more, to be better. Not only is this unsustainable (especially for those of us who are out of shape) and detrimental to our self-esteem, but it also obscures our own unique light. I’m well aware that I’m officially journeying into territory that may be deemed “cheesy,” but, please, put on your self-help-loving hats and join me over here–it’s soft, fluffy, and full of positive affirmations: you are your own unique person with your own unique talents. There is no race. Your self-worth is not at stake. This is just you and your life.

Of course, it’s complicated to change the way you think. Complicated in the sense that even if we recognize that a rising tide lifts all ships, we can still feel a pang of jealousy when someone else rises and we don’t. Complicated when it comes down to realizing how much labor goes into accepting ourselves completely. Case in point: I once cried in therapy because I couldn’t say, “I’m likable just as I am.” We can be so accustomed to defining ourselves in relation to others and to analyzing what they have and what we don’t. But the thing is, where comparison stops, true characters begin. Life begins. If we can live a life that’s wholly our own, a life in which we don’t do things because others do them or define ourselves in contrast to others’ talents, then we can find meaning. That’s when we are at our best and most radiant. That’s when we make the world light up.

There’s really no unit of measurement for the human soul. Someone else’s talents and someone else’s journey have no bearing on our own. Yes, we’re all wandering around together here on Earth, often in very close proximity, but everyone’s skills, passions and paths are too wildly varied, too fantastically nuanced to compare. If we can trust in ourselves and realize that we are okay as we are, then we can take our lives in directions that are right for us.

So let’s drop all this comparison business. Sometimes it’s okay to allow someone else to be a better athlete or to have shinier hair. Know that it’s okay if someone scores higher on a test or is a better rock climber. We each have innate value and worth, just because of who we are. It’s time to step off the treadmill and start walking to the places we truly want to go. Then we can encourage friends as they walk along their own paths, as they climb their own mountains and reach their own peaks, all the while knowing that our journeys are unique in their own special ways.