Sharing the Spotlight, Part 3

It’s hard to say where I am with this issue right now. When I try to ask myself “How do you feel about your husband surpassing you in something by a wide margin? How do you feel about him becoming very skilled in an area that you have very little experience in?”… when I ask these questions, all I feel is chaos.

Here’s what I know so far:

  • It is good for him to be driven to learn and grow.
  • I want to be supportive, but I’m not there yet.
  • Most of my issues come from feeling insecure, as though lack of skill is the same as lack of value.
  • I don’t need to be the best at everything.
  • I can’t succeed at everything, and that’s ok.
  • Sometimes, factors besides talent and effort determine how well someone will do.

So, where does that leave me now? I think I should feel better than I do, and that I should be more secure. After all, no one around me is expecting me to pursue the same thing as my husband. All of the people around me truly do expect me to find my own way and live my own life. There is absolutely no pressure for me to learn this skill too. There is also nothing preventing me from learning it if I wanted to.

I am completely free to do what I want here, so why do I feel trapped?

I guess I’ll just move onto the next assumption.

3. Performance is the same thing as ability.
One of the common responses to high performing children is to immediately equate their performance with their ability. “You got 100% on that test- you’re so smart!” It seems beneficial, or neutral at least, but it can really set those kids up for future problems. After all, if I succeeded because of my ability, then when I fail, it must also be because of my ability. If I do well because I am smart, then I fail because I am dumb.

Sometimes, people who believe in this connection will work even harder than before once their performance drops, because they are terrified of feeling like a failure. In my case, I have pushed myself very, very hard before and still failed at my task. I have crumbled down in despair because I had internalized the performance=ability correlation. I have gone to some very dark places because my value and ability were tied to my performance. I was worthless. I was empty. I was very close to ending it all. Because I had nothing to pursue and nothing to offer but pain.

I’ve been aware of the jagged, rusty edges on this assumption for a while, so at least with this issue, I’m not wandering in unfamiliar territory. I know in my mind that my performance doesn’t reflect my value. In my heart… I suppose that it’s fairly clear as well, but there are days when the old thoughts are triggered, and all at once, I’m back in my old mindset, staring down some new “failure.” It’s a process, and I am definitely making my way on this issue. Step by step, each time that it comes up, I just keep going.

What else could I do? My life is on the line here, and it’s worth fighting for.

Sharing the Spotlight, Part 2

I’m still trying to work through my jealousy over my husband’s success and ambitions. At least, I think it’s jealousy. At the end of part 1, I was talking about how I feel like I need to be the best at everything, so it could well be jealousy of his talent. Of course, I also continued right on into my value, so maybe it’s insecurity. Or maybe insecurity feeds jealousy.

I don’t need to be as good as my husband is at everything that he does. We don’t need to be the same. It’s ok for us to have different strengths and experiences. It really is ok for for people to be better than me at things. I am ok, even if I’m not the best. (This paragraph is an example of repeating things that I do not yet believe, but want to believe, in order to grow more comfortable with the ideas.)

Anyway, I’d like to go into another one of the assumptions that are making my experience with this problem more difficult.

2. It is beneficial and necessary to rank individuals according to their ability levels.
This is part of the problem  for me- the belief that it even matters how good people are at particular activities. It’s difficult to escape from this assumption, because in some cases, it really does matter what skill levels people have. If I am paying someone to create a sculpted fountain for me, I have grounds for evaluating the skills and performance of a wide range of artisans. But on a day to day basis, does it matter how good I am at field hockey? Does it affect me at all to be standing in line with a talented singer, a poor comedian, and a mediocre florist? No, it doesn’t.

So, it’s difficult for me to deal with this one, because it contains both truth and lies. I can’t just write it off entirely, but I also can’t blindly accept it either. How can I break free from the need to rank people in this manner? It was part of my childhood, in education, music, sports, and more. It was part of college as well, where GPAs determine what programs one can be a part of, what dorms one can live in, how much financial aid is available, and more. It has been part of my employment history, with performance reviews and the inevitable sizing up of coworkers in the same department. If it’s so ubiquitous, how can performance ranking possibly be unnecessary?

And yet… continuing to use ranking systems to measure people by their performance ignores the other aspects of a given situation. For example, are low performers dealing with life issues at the time (depression, death of a family member, insomnia, illness, fighting with their roommate, etc.)? Are high performers doing unhealthy things in order to maintain their performance (caffeine addiction, lack of sleep, withdrawing from relationships, pushing their bodies past the limit, etc.)? How hard are any of them working to achieve the results, and is it better to be a hard-working low achiever or a lazy high-achiever?

I’ll keep working at it. Things will start falling into place eventually.

Commentary on the “Comparison” Minis

This is optional commentary on the “Comparison” and “Comparison- Reality” art mini-entries. Feel free to avoid it if desired.

Both entries are on the topic of comparing oneself to a group. In the first art mini, I feel isolated and distinct. Sometimes it’s like I’m the only one falling apart; other times it’s like I am alone even while surrounded by others. Ultimately, there are many possible emotions that can be represented by this image. The key idea, however, is isolation or abnormality- that I am alone, that I am the only one- that kind of thing. It is called “Comparison” in recognition that comparing oneself to others promotes many negative emotions.

The second art mini features two new features: diversity and chaos; because I feel like in reality, people are neither as uniform nor as orderly as I portrayed them to be in the first art mini. It’s not like I am the only one with problems- we all have problems, but different ones. I am not alone, with crisp borders between me and the world. We are all a jumbled mess, in contact with a few people and isolated from others. It is up to us to make those connections matter.

P.S.- Bigelow makes some nice herbal teas, which is why I have them here to use for art in the first place. 😊