It starts right after we take our first breath: judgment. Doctors whisk us away from our mothers and rate us on our performance of being born. Mothers compare the “developmental progress” of their babies with other children and with books that claim knowledge about these matters. They graph us on little height and weight charts that tell them if we’re too fat, short, tall or thin. Even the mothers themselves look at each other, with secret thoughts of disapproval about the other’s parenting style, method of feeding or productivity outside the home status. With so much judgment so early in life, it’s no wonder we, as adults now, are walking around never feeling “good enough.”
So what do we do about this constant feeling of never measuring up? The television networks have provided a plethora of “reality shows” that are so outrageous that we can’t help but feel superior to the characters on the screen. Unfortunately, many of these programs revolve around judgment as well, and though we sit on our sofas and feel “better than,” that is a judgment in itself. So we end up doing the exact same thing that we hate being done to us! While shows like The Biggest Loser rely on objective measures, like the actual amount of weight lost, subjective measures like on The Bachelor are at the mercy of someone random, who is central to the show.
So if escaping into television doesn’t help our inferiority complexes, maybe movies could. It is true that a good movie can “pull you in” to the story and make you feel like you are a part of it. However, the minute the lights come on, the standard practice is for moviegoers to begin their judgment of the film they just saw. So, while the movie itself may not cause the audience to feel “less than,” it encourages us to judge. The issue of movie stars, however, is not so free of bias. The super-successful actors, models and moguls set the bar for what the general public aspires to, and without fail, that bar is unreachable. As a result, we have teenage girls and young women starving themselves and even saving up for plastic surgery so they can meet society’s standard of what’s good enough.
So if escapism isn’t the way to feel "bigger," what is? Ideally, we could let perceived judgments from others roll off of our backs. We could adopt the motto, “Your opinion of me is none of my business.” For many people who practice this every day, it works wonderfully. However, there is one source of judgment that we can never escape: our own opinions of ourselves. There’s a saying made popular by Alcoholics Anonymous that illustrates this problem perfectly: “Wherever you go, there you are.” There’s no escaping the judgmental thoughts that we hold about ourselves. These beliefs are usually adopted during childhood from messages we receive from our caregivers. For example, if a parent continually implied that his or her child was useless, the child would eventually incorporate that as a firm belief in his or her mind.
The truth is that someone else is probably better than you at some things, more attractive in some aspect and more reasonable about some topics. But when you stop treating life like a big contest and refuse to play, the “less than” feeling can actually vanish. Comparing ourselves to anyone else is a huge waste of time. No one has lived the exact same life as you. No one looks exactly like you (even identical twins have something about their appearance that is different). Because of our uniqueness, comparing ourselves with others is like comparing apples and oranges. Accepting this fact and doing our best to live life on our terms instead of society’s is one of the best ways to rejoice in our differences. What works for you may not work for me. As long as we are doing what we think is best in our own personal situations, we can be assured that we are and always will be good enough.