I walk through the mostly empty hallways of the local mall. I pass by one clothing store after another. The displays show ripped guys in fashionable clothing. Despite how nice the clothes may look, I know there is nothing for my 3XL frame in the stores. I sigh and continue on my journey.
I sit at my desk, slaving away at a thesis that feels like it will never end. The topic of my thesis causes most people’s eyes to glaze over. It is essentially attempting to solve a problem you didn’t know you had with methods most people don’t understand (see the dictionary definition for ‘wizard’). The coworker in the desk next to me receives another phone call from the Discovery Channel as she has become famous for her recent shark footage. I sigh and continue on writing my own unsung contributions to science.
I eat my lunch at a nearby café. I see a couple on a date at a nearby table. They are joking and laughing, even bending over the table for the occasional kiss. It’s sweet to see, but gets me contemplating my own long-distance relationship. About how I’m going to be alone with a pizza and Netflix tonight. I sigh and send a loving text to my partner.
None of these things are particularly unique. They are just part of everyday struggles. Other people will have their own similar struggles. But all of these sighs have one thing in common: They result from the comparison of myself to others. It’s quite easy to do. We are constantly bombarded with messages of “you can’t be happy unless you have *blank*.” My Catholic upbringing reinforced that idea that no matter how hard I tried I was going to be inherently flawed in comparison to an ideal. Then there are petty desires, where you may want to look like someone else or experience the same success as another.
But then I remember: “Jedi are mindful of their thoughts.”
Each of us have our own unique strengths and weaknesses. By constantly comparing ourselves with others, we only serve to highlight our weaknesses and blind us to our strengths. Quite likely the individual you are comparing yourself to is comparing themselves to other people and feeling inadequate in other ways. It’s a vicious cycle that only serves to cause internal conflict. Instead of the constant feeling of inadequacy, it’s best to remember that you excel in your own unique ways. Both the sun and the moon will shine when it is their time.
We start out life as clean slates, ready to mature in unique individuals. And yet the world seems to try to drain us of that potential individuality. To be another member of the masses. People are easier to understand and manipulate if they are essentially sheep. Instead of restraining ourselves, we should go forth and be our unique selves. Add a bit of eccentricity to our lives. Humanity progresses through the accumulation of non-normal thoughts. As a scientist and actually just as a human being, I find it important to every day try to think of new ideas, even if they seem impossible at the time. Sometimes life has a way of making some of those impossible ideas possible.