I was scrolling through Instagram the other day and spotted a post that implied that, as a Wiccan, if you didn’t start as a small child to exhibit your tendency towards nature-based religion, it’s obvious to everyone. It was clearly a put-down. It’s a variation on the old “I’m more authentic/better than you because I was ‘born with it’” stuff.
A wonderful book that addresses this way of thinking is Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck. In the book, she illustrates the contrast between the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. The fixed mindset is one that says that you have to be “born with it” – whatever “it” is: artistic talent, speaking ability, money skills, etc. The growth mindset says that what’s important is what you do with the innate, but undeveloped, talent you have within you. You can develop an extremely high amount of skill, given sufficient time, passion, and hard work.
I am definitely a devotee of the growth mindset. I have watched myself develop talents and capacities that I was in no way born with. I was only born with the latent potential.
But, deeper than that is the problem of comparisons. Many people give up because they are busy comparing themselves with other people. I’ve heard people compare their level of spirituality, their beauty, their talent, their kids, even their past! This is ridiculous.
It is next to impossible to be either grateful or content when you are busy comparing yourself to other people. It is natural to notice the differences and similarities between things and people. That’s fine. What is not fine is attaching judgment to these differences and similarities. It’s amazing how quickly people become arrogant about things that don’t ultimately matter.
People brag about money (which can be lost), beauty (which always fades), talent (which can be honed and developed by anyone), personality (which is fluid), and many other things that have nothing to do with actual human value.
You have value in and of yourself. Whatever you do with your innate physical, mental, and emotional gifts is up to you. It’s your dharma, or life’s work. But this is just your task as a reasonable human – to make the most of yourself and your opportunities. It’s not something special.
Your gifts do not make you better or worse than anyone else. You are good at one thing; someone else is good at something else. You know some things; other people know different things. You are infinitely valuable, but at the same time, you are not special. We are all equal, all beloved of the Goddess, all priceless.
Comparisons will inevitable kill your joy. Even if you judge yourself as better than someone else, this is unstable. You will constantly be looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re still better. You will be angry and threatened whenever someone else achieves something similar to you or, god forbid, more spectacular than you. You will not ever be secure. Ever.
If you want to compare yourself, compare your present self with last year’s self. Have you become wiser? More compassionate? More abundant? More generous? Less reactive? Less wasteful, or gluttonous? These are things to celebrate. Pondering these things will make you feel more secure, not less.
I encourage all of us to meditate on the beauty of our lives, and all the things we have to be grateful for. Even though we all have challenges, we also all have gifts and opportunities. May we give up comparison and learn to celebrate the abundant variety that Nature obviously loves.
Have a wonderful weekend.