Alternate Title: You can compare your mountain to others as much as you please, but it’ll never be the exact same.
I think I’m partially making this post to address people raining on others’ parades…
Celebrities/the wealthy/whatever-privileged-group-you-can’t-help-but-roll-your-eyes-at… are always going to do something that you disapprove of. No one is perfect. And a group that’s “separated from normal life” is bound to be tone-deaf or unintentionally do something that regular society disapproves of. That doesn’t mean what they do is automatically excused. But, it also doesn’t mean you should drag someone whenever they’re having a good time, especially when nothing wrong is being done. Privilege people are allowed to have a good time too.]
Alright, PSA over. Now to the regular part of this post…
We’re mountain climbers
Sometimes, I think of life as a journey up a mountain. There are lows and highs and each moment can be talked about like it’s dire to the final destination. And I get it, in a way each moment does play a role in who and where you’ll be in the future. And in theory, any moment can be a big moment.
But, that’s only a part of it. Because the thing is, whether it be life or mountains, they don’t always get discussed as standalone things, right? Comparisons always pop up. Which is easier? Where are the better sights? Which requires professional training for you to realistically pull off? There are so many questions and opinions to pass around.
Now, it’s easy to go: “well, that’s just life” or “people should just mind their business and focus on their own life.” And yes, I think this does carry weight. But, I don’t think it can solve the issue. [To be honest, I don’t know if the issue is solvable.]
You see, everyone’s life is their own unique journey. And some people actually don’t strive to reach the top. They’re not aiming to prove something or go “hey, I climbed this mountain.” For some people, just getting the opportunity to climb the mountain is what it’s about. Other people get to Point X, look at the sights they get to see daily, and decide “this is what it’s all about and I’m satisfied staying right here. This will be the top of my mountain.”
Everyone’s definition of what the mountain is like, the views it offers, when to stop, if it really has a peak, and so on is different. The why behind those aspects also varies too. But, because we live in a society and we naturally compare things often, what happens is that a picture starts to form a supposed real answer. And I think that’s a big reason why things get tricky and it can be hard to avoid comparing/judging ourselves and others.
Your own mountain
If you don’t mind, I’ll like you to take a few moments and picture your life. Here’s some questions that might help:
- Have you had moments when you fell a big distance? Did you ever just manage to catch yourself before one?
- What have the high moments been like? Did you stop and enjoy them or rush on ahead?
- Do you think you see your highs and lows the way society at large might?
- What moments have been the most enjoyable part of the climb? Which do you regret?
- Are there any moments you appreciate more now that time has passed?
If you’re not feeling the mountain analogy, feel free to think of things as like a book or even a sliding 0-100 scale. Whatever works for you. This is just an exercise to get you thinking of your life as a “climb,” basically a transition with “somewhere else” as an end goal.
So moving on, do you think your life has to keep going upwards or “progressing?” [Yes, yes, I know what my last sentence in the prior paragraph was. And I know I asked you to also try thinking of your life from society’s PoV in that list.] I ask that question because the way we see ourselves and the world around us has been shaped by others’ opinions and ideologies from the start. So if I ask you “do you think your life has to keep going upwards or progressing” some of you will go “yes” simply because that’s considered the natural order of things. It’s what we’re often taught to strive for and what’s seen as “right.”
But, I don’t want you to think about what’s right according to society. I want to know what’s “right” for you. If that happens to be the same as society’s even after you give it real thought, that’s okay. [I mean, I freely admit that I’ll also like to keep progressing.] However, if you’re able to find peace and contentment by staying in one spot on the mountain… is that wrong? Inherently, I don’t think so. I’m sure it may cause some judgments or worse amongst society. But, society isn’t you. You’re just a part of its narrative. [Try and keep this in mind as I continue the post.]
Unfortunately, despite us all climbing our own mountains, we can be awful when it comes to respecting mountains that aren’t our own. Perhaps… because every mountain is unique and so understanding, let alone adapting, to someone else’s can be grueling.
I’m more of the “let’s go for a walk” type than a real-life mountain climber, but I can imagine (especially with a bit of help from Google) a few different settings that could affect your ease of climbing:
- The type of climb: ice climbing, rock climbing or trail climbing. [The latter is hiking.]
- The weather conditions. [Is visibility low? Is it too hot for you? Too cold?]
- Are you accustomed to it? [If you’re a trail climber than ice climbing might not come easy.]
- Do you have the preferred equipment? [Ex: Harness, comfortable shoes, appropriate attire, climbing spikes.]
Of course, we can take those factors away from mountain climbing and apply them to life in general too:
- What kind of journey do you prefer? What type of pacing and obstacles? [If you’re the fast-and-furious type, it can be hard to adapt and understand what’s it like to be slow-and-steady.]
- Weather? [If your mountain is mainly sunshine and rainbows, regular hailstorms will throw you off.]
- Are you use to it? [Of course, just because you’re used to something doesn’t mean you handle it well. But, having little experience with something can really prevent you from purposefully learning and improving, even if it’s just being able to walk in someone else’s shoes.]
- Do you have the desired tools? [Some people’s way of life calls for being more diplomatic. Or frank. You might need to be a really good judge of character. Or willing to pay for high fashion. Or you may need to be quite self-motivated or follow directions well.]
Do you understand what I mean by those examples? The climb can look starkly different depending on whose mountain it is. And because we’re so used to our mountains, we often judge others by the same standards we use for ourselves. But is that a fair approach? Probably not.
Acknowledging the mountains and the bigger group
Earlier I said:
society isn’t you. You’re just a part of its narrative.
And that’s true. But, to be honest, unless you completely isolate yourself from the rest of society, it’s unlikely that you won’t compare yourself to others or be influenced by them.
“That looks cool, I want to experience that.”
“But that’s so extra. Why can’t more people be like me?”
“I can’t do that. Why do they get to?”
Now, I’m not going to claim that we need to stop comparing ourselves to others. Because honestly, I don’t think that’s inherently a bad thing. [Personally, I’ve learned a ton about the world and myself by observing others and their own PoVs and comparing theirs against mine. Comparing gives me an idea of what’s possible or things that I might want to try and explore some.]
However, I do think that people need to stop beating their selves up because of it. And people should stop tearing others apart because their mountain is different. There’s probably always going to be someone whose mountain you struggle to understand.
To put it simply, people are varied and so are our lives. We may think that our mountains will be forever changed for the better if we buy X or do Y, but the truth is you never know for sure.
Sometimes comparisons drive you to be more productive and you earn success as a result. But, sometimes what you really needed is a break.
You might scold others for sharing their “private business” on social media, but ignore that you’ve done the same and will do so in the future. Or maybe you applaud people for sharing themselves so openly, but refrain and put yourself down for not joining in.
Whatever comparisons you make, try and remember that your mountain is different and there’s a limit to how much your life can emulate someone else’s. Regardless of what you do, you’ll always be you in the end. It’s impossible to change that. So, rather than let a desire for change consume and wreck your journey on your mountain, try and pause and rethink things.
Comparisons can be helpful, effective, and good. But, it’s also too easy for them to eat away at you. Try not to let that happen.