Her words would not leave me. Intended as a compliment, they felt strangely disturbing.
“You’ve got it all together.”
I replayed the words in my head for a week.
Was I a source of comparison, envy, or inspiration? My friend, 20 plus years my junior, sees my life in the present and from the outside.
My past is outside her range of vision. While now with few financial fears, I can still feel the tension in my hunched shoulders from when newly divorced I obsessively checked the next due date of my credit card bills. Today she sees me a petite 5’ 2”. She can’t envision me with 25 more pounds and afraid to walk through the doors of a gym. She doesn’t know about the stack of little red spiral notebooks tracking the numbers on the scale through nine years of its daily travels, forever hoping to one day arrive at its destination.
She sees my life from the outside, not the inside where my beautiful century old home holds the piles of unfulfilled intentions on my dining room table—cards never sent and gifts never mailed. On my bookshelf, next to the book that says “by Susan Ann Koenig” sits the knowing that I’ve yet to fulfill my bold claim that I had three books in me alongside my fear I won’t.
What is not visible is what happens on my insides. A lifetime of lessons, old stories of abandonment, judgment, and exclusion still give rise to false thoughts of embarrassment and shame. In those moments, I don’t have anything together. I’ve got everything falling apart.
Unseen are my thoughts. When my password doesn’t work: “I’m not capable.” When I say something stupid in a group chat: “I don’t belong.” When I don’t hear a certain three words: “I am not loved.” Lies all, of course, but irrelevant to their arrival in my amygdala.
I have it no more together than anyone, obviously. I just have a couple more decades than my friend at practice at life, and a little more experience at cleverly hiding being human.
What do you experience when comparing yourself to others?
Do you judge yourself based on the outside appearance of the life of others?
Can you have compassion for yourself when you fear you aren’t capable, don’t belong, ore aren’t loved?