If You Knew My Story, Would You Walk in My Shoes?
19 Nov 2013
You know who they are: your haters. And although they can actually push you to do better, sometimes, it gets frustrating when it seems like all they want to do is knock you down. They are envious of what you’ve accomplished, when in truth, they have NO IDEA what it took for you to get there. If this is your story, I can relate.
Years ago, I was on the other side of that equation. I was the one who was envious of others because they seemed to have what I thought I wanted: whether it was money or popularity, nice clothes or the guy I had a crush on in high school (who really ain’t looking all that good right now). Thank God we don’t always get what we want.
How in the world was I supposed to be happy for others when I didn’t feel that great about myself? I wasn’t able to answer that question until I finally came to understand that their blessings belonged to THEM. And mine? They would come when I stopped focusing so much on everyone else’s seeming good fortune and focused on my own. It’s that “greener grass” syndrome we seem to get every now and then.
We forget that although the grass may look greener on the other side, it costs a lot more to maintain.
When I realized that my envy was toxic and keeping me from my own personal growth I started making a conscious effort to, not only support, but genuinely celebrate others’ successes. However, I wouldn’t have been able to do that without doing some serious work on myself. Every single person has, at one time or another, had to deal with their own insecurities. The difference between those who have learned to live joyfully and found success (however you choose to define it for yourself) and those who are miserable and can’t stand seeing other people happy is simply this: they were willing to DO THE WORK.
What does it mean to “do the work?” Using myself as an example: I grew up having to learn how to navigate two identities. Being raised by very African parents in a very American society wasn’t easy. I remember being teased in kindergarten for my traditional Ugandan clothing and being told I looked like a boy because I had such short hair. In fifth grade, even though I just knew my bright red hand-me-down sweater was hot stuff, the school bully didn’t agree. She teased me mercilessly until she was reprimanded by one of my teachers. In high school, I was never “this” enough or “that” enough because I had to follow in the footsteps of my three popular older sisters who had left several pairs of big shoes for me to fill.
Throughout my life, I’ve been handed some pretty nasty situations: getting kicked out of high school (that’s another blog post), divorce, losing what I thought were lifelong friendships, betrayal by people I trusted, feeling like a failure, and so much more than I have space to write about in this article. I could have allowed all of these things to continue poisoning my spirit—except that my spirit was stronger than anything life could throw at me.
Every time I fell or was knocked down, I built up muscles to help me bounce back stronger, wiser, and with a smile. Call it spiritual body-building.
In dealing with my own “stuff,” it wasn’t like anyone handed me a magic potion for success. I had to be willing to look at the woman in the mirror and be brutally honest about how she got to where she was. And then do my part to fix what I didn’t like. I love the quote from Christian D. Larson that states:
“I promise myself…To give so much time to the improvement of myself that I have no time to criticize others.”
For the past few years, I’ve been so busy working on me, I haven’t had the time or energy to figure anyone else out. I’ve been blessed to have reached just about every goal I have ever written down, travel the world, meet amazing people, work on life-changing projects, and be born into the most ridiculously loving and supportive family…ever.
I now understand that what looks like an extraordinary life to someone on the outside, may not always be as wonderful as it seems. Or, it may be just that: extraordinary. BUT, you don’t ever fully know what someone has had to do or live through to earn it. As John P. Kee sang: “You don’t know my story. You don’t know the pain that I’ve been through. You can not imagine…the pain, the trials I’ve had to endure.”
Through my own spiritual journey, I learned that being envious of others’ success is almost always a sure sign that you’ve got some work to do on YOU. So the next time you find yourself hating on someone you see living the life you think you want, ask yourself: “If I knew their story, would I be willing to walk in their shoes?”
HOW have you dealt with envy in your life? Leave your comments below!