When I was in my 20s I had a very influential experience with the shifting of perspective. I had gotten the amazing opportunity to work at a Club Med as a member of my improv group. I was so excited to go. The Club Med was in the West Indies. I was informed that as part of my job, I was expected to sit at different tables for every meal and socialize with the guests. That first night I sat at a table with a beautiful family. They looked like they were straight out of a magazine; tall, slender, blonde with a cherubic blonde child. The gorgeous husband was an airline pilot and the beautiful wife was a former model.
Sitting down with them I had a sudden pain in my heart. It was the pain of longing. I wanted to have a husband. I wanted to have a child. And I had been suffering for a long time with the fear that it wouldn’t happen for me. My wonderful work/vacation suddenly seemed like potential torture. I thought, “I don’t know if I can stand being here with all these happy families.”
A couple days later I was taking a break on a lounge chair and I realized that the beautiful mother was lying in a chair next to me with her angelic baby on her chest. It was such a beautiful picture; it should’ve been hanging in a gallery. The words popped out of my mouth, “You guys are so beautiful.”
This led to a conversation where I actually told the woman what I had been feeling when I sat with her family that first night. She said, “Oh my God. I was thinking the same thing at that same exact moment. How am I going to survive being around all these happy families? Because…” she said, “we’re getting a divorce.”
This encounter made an enormous impact on my life. So much pain comes out of comparing ourselves to others. The assumption that everyone else is better off than you is false and damaging. Of course there’s truth that others may have things that you want: money, beauty, success, but that only tells part of the story. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” You are more than the current circumstances of your life. And other people are more complex than their Facebook update. Best wishes to all.
If you think you could benefit from the support of a trained psychotherapist, reach out! In Los Angeles, contact Rena Pollak, LMFT for a free 15 minute phone consultation. She maintains a private practice in Encino and Calabasas where she specializes in young adults and self-esteem issues.
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