I’ve felt sad for a long time whenever I’ve seen people trying to live up to the expectations of others, whether the aspirations stem from family, peers, co-workers, or culture. It is forced upon them, and some cultures are more cruel to their children about excellence at all costs than others are.
Yet I’ve come to realize this attitude is endemic to our educated nations, unless the individual is a maverick. In that case, they tend to go too far the other way and don’t obey even the most basic rules of a civilized society. The rules will overlap: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you; love thy neighbor as thyself; first, do no harm. In cultures where education of any kind is neither valued nor available, the relatives of those who try to achieve always rail against them, often with violent actions. This is especially true for women in such societies. The waste of human potential is staggering, as those who belittle display their own jealousies and insecurities.
There’s no other way to say it. You are unique, even if you are an identical twin. You are unique, even when someone says, “You’re a chip off the old block,” or whispers, “That mother and daughter are like peas in a pod.” You are not the person next to you at work or in school. Yours is not the family on the pew in front of you at church or other place of worship.
You are you. As Dr. Seuss once wrote: “There’s no one alive who is you-er than you.” (See his book, Happy Birthday to You!)
You can well miss your own success, if you spend your time comparing yourself to other people. Focus on who you are, not who you are not! You are who you’re supposed to be, and developing your God-given talents is expected, but not required. The consequences of not developing them (whether voluntary or not) become apparent as the years pile on.
You set the rules for who you become, even when you stumble along the way. Failures aren’t the losses or obstacles we might think they are. We’d prefer to avoid them but can’t, and they will make us tougher, if nothing else. Be the best at what you, and only you, can do/say/create without losing necessary humility along the way. You don’t know what other people are really doing or how they really feel but spare a thought for their pain and suffering, too, not just your own.
You only know what’s in your own heart or mind. You should only be competing with yourself, not with the bellowing bovine in the corner office or the teacher’s pet down the hall. Compete with yourself in your own race.
Forget other people and what they seem to be accomplishing. Behind those luxurious drapes in the big house on the corner, bankruptcy may be looming. Under those fine clothes, painful bruises may be hiding. Never envy anyone else. Strive only to be the best you can be and achieve what your talents are bursting to tell you. You can reach your own goals without coveting someone else’s assets.
You are a literal spirit daughter or son of God. He only made one of you! You have spirit brothers and sisters – billions of them – who temporarily wear a mortal body until it’s no longer needed. They came or will come to earth at different times, but there is only one of you. When your mortal body is no longer needed, you will cast it aside as a hand discards a glove, when it is time for your spirit body, for each of us, to return Home and continue our existence.
In your striving to be good, to be better, to be best, remember you don’t need to be perfect, not on this earth. There will be plenty of time in the Hereafter to continue our pursuit of perfection. “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” (John Steinbeck, East of Eden, p. 583)