A few days later, a friend and chiropractic colleague sent me a text about how it can be frustrating sometimes to see others have huge success and to compare where he is “at” in his life to where they are in theirs.
Both of these instances inspired me to write what I wrote below (also published on my other blog: Dissemination of Inspiration).
I am grateful for inspirational nuggets that flow in and out of my life and spur creativity so that I can (hopefully) help others be their best selves :).
“Comparison is an act of violence against the self.”-Iyanla Vanzant
That is a great quote, but… we all must have at least a little masochist in us because we (as humans) sure do love to compare.
We stack ourselves up against our neighbors, co-workers, teachers, bosses, athletes and celebrities. In essence we are toddlers at times, building towers of blocks if only to knock them down.
If comparison is human nature, why should we stop at comparing ourselves to someone who is in better shape, or makes more money, or has a better yard? Why not compare ourselves to people that have been immortalized in history? Why not compare who we are to people the likes of Martin Luther King Jr, Albert Einstein or Nelson Mandela.
Nelson Mandela helped end apartheid in South Africa, served 27 years in prison for what he believed in, promoted equal rights among all people, was a catalyst for peace and has been described as an “icon of democracy, social justice and courage.” (Wikepedia).
Sounds like someone I could aspire to be.
So how do I compare? I live in Broomfield, Colorado (not a lot of apartheid going on), I am white, I have not spent 27 years in prison…my blocks don’t really stack up.
During his imprisonment, it is said that the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley helped sustain him.
“Out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole. I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul. In the fell clutch of circumstance, I have not winched nor cried aloud. Under the bludgeons of fate, my head is bloody but unbowed. Beyond this place of wrath and tears looms but the horror of the shade. And yet the menace of the years finds and shall find me, unafraid. It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll. I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”
Pretty amazing poem. Undoubtedly, William Ernest Henley was a great writer/poet, but I had never heard of him until the connection to Nelson Mandela came about (and the movie Invictus was released).
Maybe I can compare myself to William Ernest Henley instead. And here’s why…
A guy most people hadn’t heard of, wrote a poem a long time ago that later inspired another guy so much he was able to survive 27 years in prison, change a nation, promote equality and go down in history as a truly amazing individual.
“We never know how far somethign we think, say or do today will affect the lives of millions tomorrow.“-BJ Palmer
No matter what your vocation is at the current moment, you will most likely interact with other people every single day.
The science of Epigenetics tells us that as human beings, we can switch on or off certain genes/traits by virtue of our interactions with others throughout our lives. Who we interact with daily can truly affect who we become (and what we pass on to future generations).
If that is a bit too “sciency” for you today, just think about the infectiousness of a smile. Research shows that when we mimic another person’s facial expression, our bodies secrete hormones to match. When a smile is repeated (which is almost a given, have you ever tried not to smile back at someone smiling at you?) the repeater releases oxytocin, dopamine, their stress levels decrease and they feel better inside. The smile truly infected the other person.
When we foster an environment of joy, happiness, compassion and love for our fellow humans, we can ignite those feelings in everyone we come in contact with.
Let’s just assume you interact with 20 people today (a low estimate)…
16.2 million people suffer from a depressive episode every year, 47% of people in the US (in one large survey) stated they lie awake at night at least once a month due to stress, and 44,000 people attempt suicide every year. Those are some alarming statistics.
What if just one of the people you interact with today fit into the above statistics? Doesn’t seem that far-fetched, does it?
What if through your kindness, you reduce their stress levels? What if through your compassion, you provide hope to them? What if through your connection, they in turn become connected to others (at their work, their home)? What if by bringing the best your humanity has to offer today, you can inspire others to do the same? One of those people may very well find the cure for cancer, or write a poem that a century from now inspires the next world leader?
We have no idea the ripple affect our simple kindness and compassion may create.
So if we are going to compare, why compare ourselves to a Super Bowl MVP, or someone with an amazing backyard, some lady gracing the cover of US Magazine, or the person who won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design in a Short Foreign-Language Animated Film… all of these comparisons are equally trivial.
Maybe we should think of William Ernest Henley. We can do something today that helps others live their optimal lives, and maybe in doing so, they can change the world for the better.
Have a wonderful Wendesday! I wish you to be happy, healthy and whole!
-Dr. Joel Lindeman