There’s this quote that says “we always compare our behind-the-scenes with others’ highlight reels.” Put another way, people half-heartedly congratulate each other on successes while suppressing their envy and jealousy. And all too often, envy and jealousy come from a place of false assumptions. People too often assume when they see their neighbors’ successes that those successes a) came easily to their neighbor and b) increase their neighbor’s happiness and c) represent the success of their neighbor’s life rather than just their neighbor’s effort at that thing. Usually these assumptions are wrong.
Recently an acquaintance learned that I’ve raised over a million dollars since launching Moneythink two years ago. This person responded presumptuously but with good intentions: “Wow! You must be so happy! Your life is so great!” This made me think. While hitting that fundraising goal was fulfilling and I feel grateful about being alive, this person didn’t know about the ten million dollars in painful rejection letters I’d received, didn’t consider that there might be other factors that have to do with my overall happiness, or that my life might have other things going on in it besides a singular quantitative career-related goal. I didn’t take it personally, but I noticed the neglect and recognized it, because I used to make comments like that to people who seemed to be succeeding. I used to make the same assumptions.
But if these assumptions inform how we judge each other, and how we judge each other informs how we judge ourselves, then I can see how it might become easy to fall asleep at the wheel of life and forget that you’re in the driver’s seat.