Saturday, 31 March 2012


“Your worth as a person does not come from what you are paid. It comes from who you are and what you give.” –Joe Dominguez

Too often, I think we measure success by external measures. We look at who has the biggest house, the largest paycheck, and the newest car. We choose these objects because they are easy to see and clearly measurable. Jason earns more than Sue, therefore Jason is more successful. Sue has a nicer yard than you, therefore she wins.

It’s not always this obvious. Still, if I stop and really listen to my thoughts, I find that I am subtly comparing myself to those around me. I might be jealous that my coworker gets to leave early, or I’ll find myself judging someone else’s lack of computer skills. When we create a competition between ourselves and others we will end up with a winner, but we’ll also always end up with a loser. Either way, we’re creating unnecessary emotional turmoil for ourselves, as the truth doesn’t lie in the black and white comparisons we see. The truth is in the nuances of life.

Jason may earn twice as much, but he also puts in 60 hour weeks and is caring for his extended family. Sue has to spend money on a gardener or invest a large portion of her free time maintaining that yard. We can never truly know the extent of another person’s experiences. We may think our boss is a complete ass, but we don’t know what aspect of his personal life causes him to be miserable. Thanks to an irritable morning of dealing with our boss’s mood swings, we rush past the gas station clerk without noticing that he’s sporting the biggest smile we’ll see all day.

I carry an index card in my purse with a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh written on it:

“When another person makes you suffer, it is because he suffers deeply within himself, and his suffering is spilling over.”

I use this to remind myself not to be reactive. Yes, that comment from my colleague may be completely out of line, but I don’t know what happened this morning to put him in such a nasty mindset, or if the tone of my voice reminded him of someone else. If I am reactive, I only serve to further the conflict and ruin my good mood.

The emotions we feel towards someone else, whether or positive or negative, are simply a reflection of ourselves. If my friend feels jealously towards me and chooses to react negatively, that is a reflection of him. By using external measures to compare ourselves to others we’re engaging in a pointless endeavor, because they will never tell the whole story. If we can accept that each person goes through life with their own burdens and is doing the best they can with the options they were given, we can let go of our jealousy and appreciate the things we already have.

Without looking at those around you, you already know your own self-worth and it has nothing to do with the size of your waist or your wallet. The sum total of our worth is immeasurable, because the things that matter can’t be measured. Your self-worth is in your experiences and your relationships with others. The faster we can stop contaminating those relationships with petty comparisons, the better we’ll feel about our own lot in life.

1 comment:

  1. Clearly, that person hasn't suffered enough. Clearly...


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