Banish not enough
People like to do things big here in Colorado.
We don’t just hike, we hike to 14,000 feet. It’s nothing to be in a group with several people who’ve climbed Everest. It’s all about the challenge as described by terrain and elevation gain. Some sort of scrambling - class 3 at least - is preferable.
We don’t just ski or ride, we make it a way of life. There are people who make a living tracking and following snow. It’s all about your number of days - the more powder days the better - and backcountry is more legit than a resort.
It’s not just about getting outside, it’s about living to be outside. Everything must be epic.
And then there’s me. I like to hike and I like to ski and I like to be outside, but frankly, I’m just as happy being inside and spend much more of my time that way. And I find myself mostly downplaying this to people I meet here. There’s a sense that to really show your love for this place you have to be going hard in the mountains every free moment you have.
But this just happens to be the reality here; this habit of comparing ourselves and coming up short happens everywhere for everything and it’s all relative. Because even in my indoor life - which I am very devoted to and do very well; I have an epic indoor life you might say - I still find fault.
Even when I’m reading books and learning, I’m not reading enough books. Even when I’m spending time moving a writing project along, I’m not making enough progress. Even when I’m focused on my freelancing, I’m not getting enough new work.
And don’t even get me started on how much television I sometimes watch.
It forever feels like no matter how much I accomplish or how much I love the way I’m spending my time that I need to justify it - even to myself - in relation to what others are doing and have done. And the more I admire someone and the more like them I am, the more I do it. Which, of course, does not usually have a positive outcome, but instead ends in not enough.
But if we’re constantly worried about what we’re not doing, we’re going to miss the enjoyment we get from what we are doing or maybe worse, we might end up doing something we don’t enjoy at all just because someone else is doing it. In other words, while we’re worried about wasting time…we’re wasting time.
So what is to be done?
I guess if you’ll allow, may I perhaps make a suggestion?
It’s a pretty simple one actually and it might surprise you. We don’t need to banish comparison; we simply need to banish the message of not enough.
Here’s something that doesn’t get said very often in my experience: comparison doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Healthy comparison can actually be a source of motivation; an opportunity to evaluate the path you're on and whether it’s time to take a step forward.
It’s only when we allow comparison to morph into this toxic message of not enough that it becomes a problem. Healthy comparison says I can do that! Toxic comparison says I should be doing that! And this sort of comparison is rarely your own voice. It’s generally the voice of external expectations - family, friends, colleagues, society at large - and man can it be crushing; and persistent!
But here’s the beauty part: you don’t have to disregard the voice altogether, you just need to learn to distinguish yourself from the voice. Once you can recognize the voice for who it is (a.k.a. not you) then you can put it to work.
When it starts speaking up, for instance, that’s a cue for you to figure out what you really think about the situation and whether you really need to make a change. Are you watching more television than you want to be to the detriment of something else? Cool, then fix it, that’s all.
Afterward, you can thank the voice kindly for its prompt, but know that at no time do you have to listen to any of its opinions and you definitely don’t have to agree. After all, that toxic voice is full of judgment and not enough is a prime example; you don’t have to take that.
Because you are enough. You are just exactly enough whoever you are. Whatever amount of time you’re spending on whatever thing you are, is exactly enough in that moment - all you have to do is decide how you’re going to spend your next moment. You don’t have to call it too much or not enough, just ask yourself kindly if you need to adjust.
Easy enough right?
No, really not. Not even close.
Even just recognizing that voice can take a lot of hard work, let alone learning not to listen to it, so be gentle with yourself, ok?
Be gentle and give yourself lots of space to not need to adjust all at once or to adjust your adjustment, and if you’re continuing to struggle notice that too. There is so much information in struggle and despite what we might have been taught, struggle is not required for something to be worthwhile.
Does that surprise you too? Yeah, me as well, but that’s a discussion for a different day.