The sky was turning a pinkish orange and the air on my cheeks dropped a few degrees as the sun began setting and I continued to put one foot in front of the other while walking along the shoreline. The barrage of thoughts running through my mind was interrupted by loud squawking sounds. Then, out of the corner of my right eye, I caught sight of a bird with a sand crab in its beak half running, half flying as another bird chased after it in hot pursuit of the sand crab it did not catch but desperately wanted. I quietly chuckled to myself. It was comical to watch, but it also reminded me so much of life and human behavior.
How often do we see what someone else has or has accomplished and immediately think, “I want that!” Or “Why don’t I have that?” Or, “Why haven’t I accomplished that too?” It’s human nature to compare ourselves, our situations, and what we have to others. Present day social media amps that up, putting the ability to compare and contrast…and ultimately judge (ourselves and others) right in the palm of our hands.
Sometimes it feels like there is always a clearly visible sand crab in someone else’s beak, enticingly glittering in the setting sun, calling out, “You want me and don’t have me because someone else got here first…faster.” So many times I believed that because someone got something first there simply wasn’t enough left for me. Classic scarcity mindset. Often I used what others had accomplished as a way of proving to myself that I was somehow a failure or not good enough. All my self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness being fueled by my spiraling thoughts.
Just as the bird was wasting energy chasing after what wasn’t rightfully his, we often expend precious energy chasing after what isn’t meant for us. Or we pour our efforts into feelings of jealousy and self-berating thoughts, effectively getting in our own way and keeping ourselves bogged down in.
So how do we stop chasing after what others have and expending energy in ways that generate unnecessary suffering for ourselves and keep us stuck? First we practice noticing and acknowledging when we are reaching for something someone else has or has accomplished. We begin recognizing when jealousy starts to creep in or we’ve dropped into the pit of self-doubt, or that dark hole of unworthiness. Often, our reactions are so habitually ingrained we don’t even know when we have been sucked into the vortex of our thought patterns.
Then comes what is perhaps the hardest piece, we actively choose not to beat ourselves up over any of this. The last thing we need is shame or guilt layered onto an already sensitive situation. We tenderly put an arm around the shoulder of our inner critic and guide it away from the stimuli. Firmly, but kindly directing our attention and energy back the work on our path. It takes practice – lots and lots of practice. It takes resiliency and patience because we will undoubtedly have to gently guide ourselves away from this path time and time again. It’s a lifelong practice for most of us, myself included.
I thought about all the sand crabs beneath the surface of the wet sand my feet kept traveling across. Seeing what others have worked for and attained shows us what is possible. We can let it inspire us as we set to work catching our own sand crab. Lately when I catch myself lingering on what someone else has or has accomplished I practice silently saying, “Thank you for showing me what is possible.” It’s really hard, but it ultimately feels a whole lot better then spiraling into negativity and less than helpful self-berating thought patterns. What’s ours is out there; it is not in someone else’s hands (or beak).