Me vs. You: Spot The Difference
The game goes like this:
Step One: Conjure a blurry concept of how you might appear to others. To play spot-the-difference, you’ve got to have an idea of yourself. This mental sketch must include: physical appearance, skills and ability, your level of popularity, your desirability, your character and quirks, and your career prospects.
Step Two: Live the game. Your self-sketch will shift and change depending on your circumstances and mind-set. This will keep you on your toes and fool you into playing for years as the ever-changing rules make you forget you’re even playing.
Step Three: Pick the moment to strike. The prime time to start playing spot-the-difference is when you feel suddenly vulnerable or inadequate. Obviously this makes the game more eventful, as it exaggerates the differences between you and me. The more differences you spot and whirl around your mind, the ‘better’ you are at the game. (I should warn all competitive types that unfortunately this is a game you can never win.)
Step Four: In the blink of an eye evaluate a friend, stranger or acquaintance, and mentally circle the differences. Let me give you some examples (they’ll sound familiar if you’ve played before):
- He keeps making everyone laugh vs. Has anyone ever really found me funny?
- Her hair is gorgeous vs. Mine isn’t really.
- They have my dream job vs. I have utterly failed.
- Guys find her irresistible vs. Does anyone even look at me?
- They’re so comfortable in their own skin vs. I feel I’m acting and nobody knows me.
- She is incredibly confident vs. One day I’ll learn to be like that.
[column-break]I only realised that I played this debilitating game of spot-the-difference when I heard a friend expressing her frustration as she told me about her day: she’d had some good news to share but had found that most friends responded by weighing it against their own circumstances rather than joining the celebrations.
I began to pay attention to how I really reacted when I heard good news from others, despite how I reacted externally. Looking honestly at my reaction when an excited friend came to tell me some news, I was mortified to find I played spot-the-difference too.
How do you react when you hear a friend has got their dream job? Or when you discover that they’ve found a new boyfriend and fallen head over heels in love? Or when they are given an incredible opportunity to travel abroad?
Do you rush headfirst into celebrating? Delighting at their good news and fortune with as much enthusiasm as if it were your own news? Or deep down do you slip into comparing their situation to your own?
Oscar Wilde said ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken’. What a punchy motto to live by. But why do we still find ourselves comparing? If we believe in the value of each unique self, why this constant me vs. you?
It would be so liberating to genuinely celebrate a friend’s good news instead of flattening their joy with the weight of our own self expectation or doubt.
I think it’s time to say good riddance to spot-the-difference. Here’s the final step: know your precious value, and know the high value of others. You’ll find a contentment and peace that seems to settle in your belly, and you’ll start to be free to live utterly as yourself.
Words by Lucy Geake
Images by Elaine Kwok