When we’re on the outside looking in, when we compare ourselves to others, when we listen to the glossy, photo-shopped stories the media feeds us about people who’ve “made it,” we often feel like there’s something wrong with us. We lack what other people have.
I remember early on during my spiritual path when I first started learning to meditate (and even after one of my first trips to India), I struggled with questions of faith. I thought I would wake up one day and all my doubts and insecurities would be gone because I was on a “path.”
They didn’t. In fact, they got louder.
And when I compared myself to the images and stories being spun of saints who seemed to have conquered all their fears, I felt even worse about myself.
Similar to when I was in my 20’s starting to act. No one in any of my classes talked about their struggles with the work. It was always about discussing the “character arc” and objectives. Here I was feeling doubt and loathing, excitement and dread – all these contrary emotions – but no one else was talking about them.
Years later I read an autobiography of the spiritual icon (and Nobel Prize winner), Mother Teresa. It was a watershed moment. The woman who had been publicly portrayed as the most saintly and devout of nuns actually had many dissonant feelings about her faith. She struggled and felt alone and lost. She said she was hypocritical because the outward face presented to the world was smiling and beatific, but inwardly, she often experienced absolute confusion and disbelief. Who would have thought that the woman who was considered the most faithful woman in the world actually struggled bitterly with her faith?
The moral of this story is twofold. First, and foremost, because of her contrary thoughts, Mother Teresa was even more a hero because she continued to do such serviceable work. She helped millions. Her inner battles didn’t leave her feeling sorry for herself or inert. They didn’t stop her from doing good. She persevered.
It also is yet another example of how we aspire to be like the often air-brushed images that are sugarcoated and fed to us making us believe that people who are achieving great things have something extraordinary that you and I lack.
We need to stop comparing ourselves to glamorized images. We need to realize that the same stuff you and I struggle with is the same stuff everyone on the planet works through.
The true heroes are the people whose work is not abandoned because of their fears or doubts. They’re heroic not so much because of the work they do (although that itself can be inspiring) but because of their honesty and bravery in pushing through their challenges to continue creating the work.
Compare yourself less.
Realize the hero is your own hero within.
“Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.” ~ Mother Teresa