Using the F Word to Quiet the Things We Harbor

Why is it that there’s a tendency when we see a strong confident, human rocking it in our respective field to feel a sharp pang of unwelcome envy (and please stop me if I’m just speaking for myself here). Why do the “I’m not enough” feelings rush in to fill whatever perceived wound our ego has just created? Is this just the healthy act of competition pushing us to higher heights? Is this simply an urging for us to reach further and be better? While, in a way, these things can be true, the unsettling “motivation” that comes along with envy has a pernicious side. A side that often starts with comparison and ends in self-sabotage.

How do we get to a place where we can check out the person to our right (or in our Instagram feed, or on our most respected blog) and go “Yeah, you’re rocking it, that’s great. Good for you. I’m the better for it.” Period. End of story. No secret, inner harborings that go, “ugh, I need to step up my game.” or, “I can never possibly be that amazing.” or, the clincher, “What about me?”

I know we all want to get to the first place. The place where we are gracious and secure in our own life and our own self. Inadequacy is a part of life, and it’s a well-known fact that there are always going to be people out there who are “better” than us. The question is: how do we come to terms with this fact without tearing our hair out in the process?

Without minimizing the personal steps, leaps and bounds we’ve made in our own life.

Without doling out harsh criticism to ourselves.

Without coveting and, in the process, tarnishing the beauty another has created.

It’s a tricky trot to manage. With the proliferation of talented people sharing their successes and glittering work on the Internet, it’s easy to fall down a slippery hole of jealousy. Rather than simply admiring and taking inspiration from the work of our peers, we end up scrolling through gorgeous and elegantly designed online portfolios as our hearts sink and our ego whines ever so softly, “what about me?”.

How do we get to where they are? How do I get those same gushing commenters / followers / fans?

That’s the thought that sits heavy underneath it all. How do we elevate ourselves (and our work) out of this unbecoming stew of pity and shame?

As I type this, I hear the words of Elizabeth Gilbert whispering in my head. Forgivenessss.

Ugh, but how do we avoid such cliches? How do we steer ourselves away from answers that can easily verge on the edge of cheerleading, woo woo bullshit? The reply appears in almost deceiving simplicity..we listen to the words and take them in, without judgement.

In a blog post on the subject, Gilbert writes;

“Your forgiveness is about YOU trying to achieve liberty from the prison of your own suffering, your own anger, your own grief, your own darkness, your own obsessive thoughts, your own indignation.

Love is the only way out of that prison. Radical, outrageous, nearly impossible, superhuman LOVE.

Please understand that — even as I write these words — I don’t entirely understand how to get there.

But I really want to get there.”

We all want to get there. And Gilbert’s conclusion is surprising. She asserts that we don’t forgive because it’s the noble thing to do. We don’t forgive because it makes us righteous. We forgive because we must. We forgive because we would be shitty humans without it. We would never be able to stop wallowing in feelings of self pity and envy of others’ hard work. We forgive ourselves in spite of this pitying, in spite of being the kind of small person who begrudges another’s success, however so slightly. We forgive because we’ve all been there. Because no one is a saint, and everyone is trying to do what they can. It all sounds so tidily simplified, but it isn’t.

Awareness of forgiveness does not guarantee the granting of it.

Because when your self-worth gets wrapped up in your website, your job, your work, your business — you name it — you lose sight of the rational. You lose sight of the fact that we can all get a piece of it. That just because someone else has a better design than you, better writing than you, a better resume than you, that doesn’t mean you don’t have something to offer. Despite your fixation on your shortcomings and never will bes, you are contributing something. You do have a value and it isn’t tied to another’s. It’s all yours, just like this forgiveness thing. It’s all for you. It’s a big spoonful of loving you must swallow down, with or without sugar.

It’s our answer to,“what about me?” It’s our silencer to the tiny, measly voices that lure us away from those bigger truths that matter. The truths that don’t wear with time, the things we may think are only inspiring us, that are only playing to an audience of one, but, when shared, are undoubtedly humming in the ears of others, resonating in ways we can’t imagine.


*Evil eye image used in the collage comes from the AMAZING, Hellozso (aka Sara Blake). (Ahh the magic of the Internet..stumbled upon her site and fell in love with her work. Seriously, go have a look.)

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  1. Quelcy January 6, 2016 at 2:54 am

    Oh girl, how I wish we could gush over Elizabeth Gilbert over coffees and cakes! I could do that all afternoon into the wine and cheese hours! :)

    I have definitely lived this post after parting ways with a close friend. How to learn from poor treatment without harboring bitterness and becoming an angry old lady? Forgive and move forward! Close that chapter. I thought of that forgiveness like a guillotine- swift, quick, no looking back. Now I’m also thinking of the diaper commercial- “You live and learn and then you get Loves.” ha!

    Beautiful post! Keep up the good work! I always appreciate our internet conversations. :)

    1. January 6, 2016 at 11:24 am

      hahaha yes, both examples are spot on! Thank you for the kind words about the post! And next time I’m back in Pittsburgh, I’d love to gush over Elizabeth Gilbert over coffee and cakes!

      I appreciate them as well :) ahh the magical power of Internet connections :)


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