Why do we often want to be anyone other than who we are?
I remember intentionally flunking an eye exam when I was a kid. My mother took my brother and me to the optometrist for a routine eye test and I had decided that I was not going to pass it this time. Why? Because I wanted to wear glasses.
So, when the doctor sat me behind whatever that massive machine is called that’s connected to what appears to be an intricate set of binoculars, I faked it. Being that I was probably about 10 or 11 years old, I’m pretty sure I didn’t put on a great acting performance either. I stared at the illuminated screen with my 20/20 vision and pretended I was struggling to read the combination of letters. I breezed through the first couple of rows. Didn’t want anyone to think I was going blind or anything. But after that I started squinting and giving the impression that I was struggling.
When it was all said and done, I got my glasses. They were pink plastic frames with a nice leather carrying pouch. I probably wore them for all of one week before the novelty subsided and I completely forgot they existed.
Why did I want to wear glasses? Because I didn’t need to, of course. I had friends and saw people at school wearing them and I thought it looked cool. The only reason I thought this was likely because I didn’t have any. I know people who are dependent on glasses or contact lenses who talk about the hassle it’s been their entire lives and WISH they had better eyesight. People pay thousands of dollars to have LASIK surgery and do away with the need for vision aids. Yet, here I was purposefully failing an eye exam so that I could cheat my way into wearing glasses.
We seem to always want what we don’t have, and be someone that we are not. I guess it’s natural as a kid, you see other kids with something and you want it too. It could be a toy, a cool haircut, or in my case, glasses. However, that mindset doesn’t necessarily go away as we get older. It just becomes more sophisticated.
How often does seeing a friend get married and have kids make the other friends start to want the same, or at least feel that they should be doing those things? Then suddenly, we’re talking marriage and babies with our significant other. Or going out on a massive number of dates in search of a partner.
We could be perfectly fine in our quaint little house, until we visit someone else’s and we see the nice, modern kitchen — Not to mention the pool in the backyard. Now we’re house shopping. We could be comfortable in our position at work, until friends and people around us start to move up in the corporate ranks and launch successful businesses. Now we’re unhappy, feeling left behind and job hunting. It’s that whole “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality.
Allowing others and their accomplishments to motivate us is great. Wanting what someone else has isn’t always a bad thing. It could actually push us to be and do better. It could give us that extra little kick we need to go out there and pursue our own dreams, launch our own businesses.
Nonetheless, this desire to be like others and have what they have is very real, and very harmful if left unchecked. Entire marketing campaigns are built on this ideology. Why do you think brands have celebrity and athlete endorsers? We see Matthew McConaughey driving a Lincoln or Tiger Woods behind the wheel of a Buick and suddenly those cars look a lot cooler. Gatorade did an entire campaign on being “Like Mike.” (Michael Jordan, that is.) And yes, sometimes I dream that he is me.
When it becomes self-detrimental is when these desires stem from a place of feeling as though we are not enough. We feel as though we are lacking something. So, we pursue things that we don’t need and may not even really want. We rush into relationships, make life changes for which we are not ready, make purchases that we can’t afford and emulate the lives of others. In relationships, if someone no longer wants us we allow it to mess with our self-esteem and start to wonder if perhaps they would have stayed if we were more of this or that. We want to be anyone but ourselves, and nothing we ever accomplish or obtain brings us satisfaction.
For me, as a child it was glasses. As an adult it’s been other things over the years, nice cars, fancy apartments and the illusion of an enviable lifestyle. I’ve run up credit cards in the past, going on extravagant lunch outings to try and keep up with colleagues.
I was always fairly low maintenance. I took great pride in my appearance, but never put excessive thought into it until I worked with a woman who was always dressed to the nines, had a fresh mani-pedi and a completely made face every morning. So, guess what? I felt like I needed to come to work that way too.
For you it may be something else entirely. But whatever it is that you are not, that you wish to be, I implore you to let go of and focus on all that you are. Know that you are enough, and you have enough. Because I guarantee that if you talk to those people who have what you think you want, many of them are just as unhappy and unfulfilled in other areas.
While you’re sitting there wishing you wore cool eyeglasses, that person who fumbles around on the nightstand every morning to find their pair so that they can see well enough to get out of bed is wishing they had your perfect vision.