The Casting Dock

Lusting after the lives of others, otherwise known as: a poor practice.

Isn’t it interesting how we idealize the lives of others? Or perhaps, more accurately, we idealize our perception of their lives even when we know that everyone has their stuff and rarely is the grass ever really greener.

I remember my mom telling me a few years back that there was a girl in my high school class who was jealous of my life. I have no idea how or why this topic came up, but my mom taught at the school and had developed strong relationships with a lot of the kids so it wouldn’t have been out of the ordinary for her to “confide” in or share with my mom. Anyhow, evidently this girl thought that I just had the perfect life, that I was pretty, popular, athletic, smart, had the perfect family life, etc. I remember being SHOCKED when my mom told me this a few years after the fact. Dumbfoundedly shocked. Incredulously, even. I certainly had a positive high school experience, but I would not have considered my life enviable by any means. I was most assuredly NOT the most attractive girl in my class; I had friends, for sure, but my high school wasn’t very cliquey so it’s not like there were distinct popular kids and unpopular kids; I was good at sports, but definitely not the most athletic; I’d like to think I was the smartest, but wouldn’t we all…(you see where my values lie…); and I definitely did NOT have an ideal family life. In fact, when my mom told me this I remember thinking, There WERE people with lives worthy of being envied at my high school, but I’M certainly not one of them. Funny how even as I scoffed at the incredulity of her envying my life, I managed to envy others.

I’d like to think that I have a greater perspective now, that I can see while there might be certain qualities or life circumstances that I envy in others, on a holistic level, each person has his or her hardships. Sometimes they’re easier to identify with the naked eye than others, but they are always present. Money certainly doesn’t heal or bring happiness, nor does beauty, and even the most seemingly wonderful families have their flaws. To swap lives with someone else would simply be to trade in one set of hardships for another. Even though I genuinely recognize this more now, I still find myself judging and envying.

A few months ago I was looking through a friend’s pictures online from a vacation she took with her seemingly perfect family. It just looked like the BEST time–a beautiful, in-tact family spending quality time with each other, out doing fun things together, laughing, smiling, traveling, etc. I remember feeling a twinge of jealousy. It just felt like the perfect little family outing. A few days later I asked her about the trip and was preparing myself for all the glorious details when she basically replied, Eh, it was okay, but the family dynamics were tough…and this happened and this was going on under the surface and it was hard to process this, etc. I was completely caught off guard and said something along the lines of, But your pictures all looked so happy like you guys were just having the best time. She basically said, “I know. Pictures can be so deceiving, huh?”

Pictures, and just looks in general, can be so deceiving. I know this. I have learned it time and time again, yet why do I constantly judge books by their covers? I created my own glorified impression of their family vacation, which I then envied, and for what? It was all a farce.

This is one of those circular life lessons that I keep learning over and over and over again and yet it doesn’t seem to really stick: everyone really does have their stuff and the grass is never really greener. Learn to be content with your own life, and stop judging your strengths and weaknesses against your perceptions of others. That’s what I tell myself when I find those envious thoughts creeping in. NO ONE HAS THE PERFECT LIFE, no matter how beautiful they are, how much money they have, how perfect their family seems, how intelligent or witty or charismatic they are, or even, how wonderfully perfect their life appears through the lens of a camera. We devalue the beauty of our lives when we spend time and energy comparing our lives to some glorified, non-existent perfect life.

{huxtables image}

8 comments

1 Craig W { 02.10.11 at 3:13 pm }

Just an observation: Let us agree, in this culture it is better to be at least moderately attractive than seriously unattractive (especially for women, especially young women). But as a man and a father of girls I have this one thought at the forefront of my mind when I see a really, really attractive young woman: “I’ll bet she gets a lot of insincere attention.” Even when life hands you the better deal it rarely comes without a dark side.

(Now, I actually had two observations but by the time I had finished up with the gem above I totally forgot the other one. Maybe I’ll be back later. Maybe.)

2 julie { 02.10.11 at 3:51 pm }

sooooooooo stinking true. so, so, so true! {and i’m totally with you on the huxtable family thing… for real. they’re my favorite TV family to date… but c’mon, really?? do arguments between husband & wife that quickly diffuse with a hoagie and some chips on the couch? no.} anyway. HI! glad you found my blog, and glad i found yours :) and thanks for the reminder to just be content and thankful where i am today.
{oh, oh and ps – no! you’re not deceiving yourself! when you become a mom: don’t buy lots of toys. it’s so not worth it. promise. just don’t be afraid of the big & ugly’s and/or loud & noisy’s if they actually do help you!}

3 Rhonda { 02.10.11 at 9:23 pm }

Human nature drives us to compare ourselves to those we deem have a better life than us. Seldom do we look to those who are less fortunate for comparison. Perhaps if we did that more we would find ourselves more grateful for the life we live. There are green fields on both sides of the fence, we just have to choose to walk through the desert sometimes to find them.

4 Jer { 02.11.11 at 8:28 am }

Look at little Rudy Huxtable. She was a showstopper.

And why was this show called “The Cosby Show” when it was about the Huxtable family? Wouldn’t this be like calling “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” “The Smith Show” instead? What other show uses the actual name of its lead actor/actress instead of some reference to the fictional world or character(s) in the show?

Yes, I got distracted by the picture. Nice, thoughtful post otherwise!

5 Craig W { 02.11.11 at 10:26 am }

“What other show uses the actual name of its lead actor/actress instead of some reference to the fictional world or character(s) in the show?”

Well, “The Andy Griffith Show” comes to mind. :)

The Bob Newhart Show

The Dick Van Dyke Show

Ok, so I can’t think of anything that was running in prime time during your lifetime, Jer. :)

6 Jer { 02.11.11 at 11:11 am }

Ah, I see I’ve revealed my youth. When the last Andy Griffith show aired, I’m not even sure my parents had met each other yet. The name of the Cosby Show must’ve been a nod to a bygone era.

7 Maggy { 02.11.11 at 12:55 pm }

SO TRUE! and timely. reading blogs can be downright dangerous for me, it’s such a sneaky way of assuming everyone else’s lives are perfect. My husband aptly points out that no one typically blogs about bad things…it’s not the point, but I steal find myself feeling like WHY ME. Glad you called it out :)

8 Lindsey { 02.11.11 at 9:34 pm }

Great post, Lisa! :) Same exact thoughts I’ve been having recently – but much better said on your blog!

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