be you or be your better?

I’ve spoken to many people in my life, many of which suffered from an envy-syndrome that drove them insane out of their minds. It was a mix of anguish, indistinguishable from failure with envy of the people better than them.

I quote some lines from a writer whom I haven’t heard of till the point I’d seen his quote which changed my life for most part of it;

“The only time you look in your neighbor’s bowl is to make sure that they have enough. You don’t look in your neighbor’s bowl to see if you have as much as them.”

It is by far one of the most surreal quotes I have ever seen because it seems too good to be true, one of which I couldn’t believe was so relatable but yet, at the same time, happening all over the world. It is insane, on most of its part not because of its contents but because of its veracity that it is actually happening in real time.

However, mostly revolving around the lives of the people around me, I become aware that they are too consumed by this need in them to prove themselves better than a person better than them. It is not by their subconscious that they are aware of their doing but it is a human need to establish the alpha-mode on that certain something.

My friend, whom I had met online and am still in good communications with him even though we live two continents away, suffer from depression. I understand his situation no matter how much I have never experienced it, but we were deep in a conversation earlier on today about how weird it is to hear someone call our names only to be meant as someone else.

He then tells me that he’s used to it – used to having people call his name only to mean someone else because there was once another person of the same name who was the on basketball team in his school, a straight-A student in his AP classes and had been president of several clubs.

I noticed the envy in the tone of my friend’s, one that dripped with so much jealousy it wasn’t easy to hide – a need to prove and be better than the other person. He admitted to wanting to be president of the clubs he was part of, wanting to get straight As in his AP classes and just wanted to be the one people meant when they called his name just so he could be better.

To him, it was an envious feeling of someone who was better than him.

To me, it seemed like someone who only wanted to better the other person out of spite.

It seems that we are all so obsessed with trying to be someone who is better than us in many aspects – an idol, as most would say – but it is not what we are most of the time. My friend, whose name shan’t be revealed, hated the idea of being himself. Despised and disgusted by the aspect of being who he was because he was unable to find something he was good at comparable to society’s needs and standards.

I reached out to him from afar, telling him that there is no point trying to be someone he was not. People are different in more ways than one.

Why do we spend so much time trying to be the person we are not when we can spend our time doing the things we are good at? We shouldn’t try to apply our skills that we had separately learned from our upbringing to the same thing that the other person had learned from a different upbringing.

My main point is this; it is better for us that we accept ourselves as who we are, no matter how much we are embarrassed of it. Why, some people ask?

I had done a social poll once, a long time ago on a social networking website; Twitter – regarding our self-reflection of the kinds of people that we all were.

I had asked, “Would you want your child(ren) to be the exact same kind of person that you are now?”

I had not expected many to vote no because of how people were so confident in the things they said or did without much remorse or thought, but it showed one thing that made me certain: People, especially teenagers and young adults, are not happy with who they are because they know they can do better than what they are doing now.

The question is how? Or even so, why?

I had always told people to be proud of who they were even if others may try to bring them down emotionally and mentally. It is a good idea to live by but sometimes, I take my words back. I do it in circumstances where it seems apparent that the person could do better than what they were.

Some people, those who are not emotionally as strong, like my friend who had thought that he was not good at a single thing because he spent half his life trying to be another person who wasn’t a single bit like him and stronger in other aspects, was and are pressured into thinking that something considered popular or within societal norms are the only things that are important when it is not true at all. He was pressured into thinking that what he was wasn’t enough to fit into what we considered “socially acceptable” and as a result, could not get over his depression.

He could do better than aiming for someone who was diagonal to the person that he was. He could do better than someone who was just as capable as he was, only that he refused to embrace who he was. The most important thing was; he barely knew who he was in the first place.

To me, knowing who you are is always the most important step to success because you know what you’re supposed to do to achieve what is most reachable for yourself, rather than reach for something that is already in someone else’s hand. I have had many experiences of trying to be someone I wasn’t, many of which I had failed in. But I take no regrets in the time I had spent because they were footsteps to leave and show me that I wasn’t ready or that I wasn’t meant to be. It pushed me beyond my limits and reach for something that I could do – writing.

Never in the entirety of my life have I ever looked into the bowl of achievements of someone else in jealousy, but rather in good will. I took it as the motivation that if he or she was capable of doing something, so was I. I never took it as a stepping stone to try and challenge someone who was already good at what they were, because what if I had failed? It would only bring me down and convince myself that I was not good in anything.

Our desire to become our better is a distraction for who we really are. We do not become our better – we are empowered by our better. I am empowered by a Malaysian writer who used to be an average girl three years ago, and over the course of her writing and aspirations, she now writes columns for a Malaysian newspaper online. I do not plan to write columns for newspapers nor do what she does, but I take it to heart that if she is capable of doing something that can inspire the minds of many, that I can do it too. I convince myself that I can become the writer and author of many books, and to add a bit of fun to my bucket list; possibly write an article for TIME magazine.

People confuse their betters as someone to compete with rather than someone to be inspired by. To be in a situation as such is compromising and difficult to get out of, especially when your mind challenges you to such desires because you never want to stop. To me, stop and think what you’re really doing and if the success of being better than your better is worth it, because once you do, you stop because you’ve accomplished what you need to without the passion of it but rather in the spite.

Always, always remember that everyone is different, but our betters are who make us the people we are because they push us into doing what we need to, rather than what we want to and it is them who will always look into our bowls to see if we have enough, rather than to see if they have as much or more than us.

And never forget it.

Looking At The Bigger Picture: Untold Soliloquies

I’ve always looked upon others with a simple question; why?

To a person unknown to me, it would seem bitter and heartless but from my perception, it seeks out the truth from what I only see. Looking at the bigger picture, I see what actions say as opposed to the words that only speak little.

My life has a single meaning to it; to strive for what I want despite the setbacks of anything and everything – but what does it mean to others? What do the lives of others mean to me? In all of honesty, very few people have a special place where I keep them but it matters not because there will always be space for others.

Albeit, looking at the bigger picture of my meets in life, I have become wary of allowing a significant number of people into my life but only because I have lost more than I can imagine. The lives of the people who were once very dear to me are now lost souls – living or dead – but lost, nonetheless.

The bigger picture is this; caution is what I keep by me always.

Everyone you meet has a story – be it a sad one, depressing, happy or tragic – we are all entitled to our own story. However, as strangers who pass you everyday, we are unaware of their bigger picture, the one that hides all truth and only speaks through words. We are, by our subconscious, ignorant and nonchalant to the likes of others who do not matter to us.

So this article is mainly, for those who have stories untold and unread.

I was walking down the streets in the city once when I stopped to watch a young man in a suit offer a bedraggled elderly woman in tattered clothes some money. To the public eye, they could only come to two conclusions; the man is kind and the woman is homeless.

It was, however, only a general statement. I stood where I did and asked one simple question; why? 

Why was the man so kind, and why was she homeless? In these situations do we look upon the words and stories not spoken and ask the questions about the people who do not matter to us. Many looked on the woman, some offering her money without giving her another glance but have many wondered why was she placed in such a predicament?

The life of the elderly woman is of no concern to me, but her bigger picture was, however, a question. The young man, suited and seemingly well-off, took thirty seconds off from his busy day to dig into his pocket for small notes of cash to offer to a woman who mattered not to him.

Why?

Did he at one point of time feel and experience life the way the woman did, or was he brought up to understand the hard work that had brought him where he was today? Was he, by any chance, a kind man not by oppression from society and parents but by choice and past experience?

These lives are the ones with stories untold from the start. Soliloquies that only they themselves understand.

We come to the general conclusion of situations when we know not of the truth behind every action and every word. We do not choose to see what is not shown because it is easier to not question why when the people involved do not matter to us. We do not question for reasoning but yet choose to come to a conclusion only obvious to the public eye.

I have spent days alone enough to think of what it means to understand the meaning of the bigger picture. It is as often, hidden by nature or sometimes by choice, but hidden mostly because vulnerability is threatened. Exposing your story can cause both positive and negative reactions – both to be expected from human nature – but just because it is hidden does not mean one does not question it.

We are too engrossed with our own lives to bother knowing the lives of others but with every step, you pass the chance of knowing a different story as how you pass strangers without questioning the simple question of why?

I have, by all means, discovered the true meaning to my life ever since I underwent a ten-minute talk about differences and bigger pictures, courtesy of my father whom I had learned from to accept and understand people from different walks of life. It is by this discovery, that I understood why I do what I do.

This larger insight on a person’s life is more than stories that changes a person, even if it does not matter to you. I could have walked away the day I saw the suited man and elderly lady but instead, I chose to stay and watch because it changed what I thought about the people around me. I was given a chance to question a man’s actions and a woman’s well-being because without it, I would have not understood what it meant to be in both their shoes.

Both their lives may not have mattered to me, as how I would not have mattered to them but the bigger picture, however, intertwines us all into a story in itself.

And we must always question the story.