Where's YOUR Confidence?

A Response to Luke Parrish's Blog on Understanding Self-Worth, Confidence, and "Believing in Yourself"

I hope that it isn't in bad form to answer someone's questions with your response and thoughts in your own blog, but I really liked the subject matter. I also am a firm believer in people searching themselves and finding something inside that is stronger and better than they ever knew was possible. Many times, soul searching and personal introspection can be a good thing. So, I'm doin' it. Also, just a warning and disclaimer-this might be kinda long and boring. Please feel free to tune into the parts that are for you or might affect you, if you like.

Meh, go ahead and read it all...its good stuff.

@Luke – Dude, you got some loyal fans and they are wordy, wordy writers. Congrats! I will be a reader, and also…a wordy, wordy writer. (Yay for you.)

I read this http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=267349158217.
I liked it.
I liked the people.
I was inspired to answer and respond.
So, I am not by nature a completely linear thinker (as you already know based on some pretty cool conversations we've had), and thusly, not a completely linear writer. So, prayin' hard and tryin' not to chase rabbits - Here are my answers to your specific questions:

1. I'd like to know at what point in your life you realized that you believed in yourself.
In all seriousness and honesty, I don't ever remember NOT believing in myself. In my earliest formative years I can remember (hopefully completely accurately), I was not overly encouraged or discouraged. It was a pretty standard, middle class, Bible belt, 1970's upbringing. However, the answer I believe you are looking for sounds like an epiphany, or maybe a "turning point". And understanding what I believe you are looking for, I will choose one specific point: sometime shortly after my parent's divorce. I was largely left alone and given a lot of freedom and independence for that age. Somewhere between my eighth and ninth birthday is the first specific time I remember thinking or feeling like I was entirely separate of my parents/teachers/caretakers in my thought patterns. I didn't judge anyone as good or bad or "wrong" for being different than me-we all just had differing views; and as a result of that new knowledge, I merely learned that I would need to be able to essentially speak another language to my parents, teachers, elders, peers, etc. so that they could follow my own thought processes. Never once did I think I should learn their way, or change mine…I would just adapt how I explained myself so they could understand better (it also kept me out of a lot of arguments and frustration at being misunderstood, and consequently punished).

That kind of realization at that age gave me a pretty secure foundation for trusting myself in future situations as I grew. And to capitalize on my belief in myself and trusting myself, I began the process of testing, gauging and reviewing those situations to learn and grow from. This served me very well later in life. There were situations (specifics can begrudgingly be cited if necessary) where I was wrong (yes, me…wrong), learned from it, and was able to grow from it – not view it as a setback or as a negative. And there were situations where I was right (specifics can also be cited, happily so) – and received the reinforcement to continue the belief in myself and my capabilities or talents as they grew. Furthermore, on a less infomercial-y motivational speaker-y note, I am just as grateful for the negative external influences as well as positive. In my opinion, those negatively perceived situations or instances were tools that shaped and helped me become who I have ultimately been presently. [NOTE: the word external is the important word there…] Why? Because I was infinitely lucky/blessed to have such an early self realization and the room to nurture it essentially uninterrupted. Why? Because things got pretty shitty afterwards. After the divorce, I was dealing with a new stepmom, an unconfident and thereby, abusive stepfather, a timid and (seemingly) broken mother, religiously zealous grandparents and an often absent, ill-spoken-of father. The ability to process such large life changes is a difficult task for most adults, much less a child. And what I learned was kind of awesome. I was a ME, they were a THEY; and we didn't all have to have the same viewpoint or belief. This translated well in other life situations at school, church…and later in work, social settings, etc.

On a slightly different tangent, but still somewhat solvent to the discussion is not just the warm, touching stories of success and overcoming. Belief is ultimately in something real. Not just in limitless possibilities, but in the very real limits and truths of the day or situation. I have a solid belief in myself for things I've already accomplished…but, I mean, who doesn't? To me, personally, that's an easy "way out" and serves to charge up your own confidence battery (eh, which is not necessarily a bad thing all of the time). However, what I truly think shows the most self belief and character are the ways you fail, and your belief in yourself or the ideal to first get back up, and then keep on going. Those learning experiences are just as valuable (if not more), and just as necessary to developing a solid, true and key self belief system.

"Oh, please", you exclaim! "Give me an example, MichaelK!"

Alright…I know I cannot fly an airplane…today. But I believe I could learn, and I believe in an emergency situation, I would be the dude that could crawl in a cockpit and have the tower talk me down. I do NOT believe that I can flap my arms and take flight (this belief in my own limits keeps me safe and alive). My personal faith in myself, my abilities and my limits are what constantly inspire me to continue learning, stretching my boundaries and knowledge, and grow from everything around me.

How boring not to fail!

And then even more so sad, boring, and meh! to not use that new information and knowledge to either press toward eventual success or create a valuable learning opportunity. I guess all of that was said to say this: My true hope is that if I was the guy that got hit by a car and would never walk again…I truly and sincerely hope I'd be the dude in a wheelchair that completed some triathlon or invented a new prosthesis. To strengthen that, I have the belief that it's that kind of hope, though, that makes me believe I actually would react in a positive manner (after the hospital stay, and some physical therapy…I'm not delusional).

2. I'd like to know at what point in your life you realized you were just as good as other people.
Ugh. I hate the perception of "just as good". To me, it implies that people can be lined up and compared on a list of criteria. I believe they cannot. It is apples and oranges. Especially on non-tangible things like self worth and emotional responses to comparisons of others. Also, and I want to word this correctly, as to convey my actual belief and not have it misinterpreted or twisted…I think every person that is born on earth deserves a certain level of respect and dignity as a human being. That is part of your rights of being alive and part of the human race and culture. However, I don't think that it is logical or even an intellectual argument to line all humans up and compare them in a competitive manner. Some will trump others. Some will naturally be more athletic, more artistic, more intellectually gifted, taller, more muscular, and more beautiful (based on a sliding scale of beauty for that era. Not to mention the "judge's" personal tastes and preferences). Some have mental or physical disadvantages. Some have social and educational disadvantages. Some have emotional or financial disadvantages. So, how can one make empirical comparisons with any degree of success?? They can't. Now, what you do with what you were naturally born with to be the best possible you, and to make the absolute most of your natural gifts, talents, and abilities…through study, practice, hard work… That can definitely make you rise above. Maybe those people are a little better?

Back on topic though, I believe I understand where you are coming from with your second question and I'll do my best to answer it and explain my answer.

It is a two-fold answer. The first situation happened when I was similar in age to the above question – between 8 and 9 years old. Not long after my parent's divorce, my dad left the church, and we were a "broken" family (God, I hate that term. As if this divorce wasn't a blessing in disguise). While this is pretty common in today's society…it was still kind of weirdly taboo WAY back in the late 70's/early 80's. I'll never forget that after church one Sunday, my mother, older sister, a family friend, and I were eating lunch at a local restaurant when someone stopped by our table. I didn't know him, or more specifically I didn't remember him being a part of our church (I'm a preacher's kid, raised in churches, etc.) But he obviously knew my mom and her friend (we'll call her Tina). He stopped, said a few pleasantries, made small talk, and ruffled my hair (why do adults always think this is acceptable? I never understood that. Kids have personal space, too.), and asked about our family. My mother just smiled and said, "Fine." He asked if my dad was at the restaurant or coming in, and my mom did the weirdest thing, she lied. She didn't tell anything major, or a detailed and intricately woven lie…but just a simple straight forward untruth: "He isn't here right now. But we are good. I'll tell him you asked about him." Pardon? Or more specifically, WTH? My young, (possibly…okay, probably) idealistic head was spinning. This was the lady that always warned me to tell the truth. Taught me morally right from wrong, punished me for general acts of mischievousness common to a young boy in the south, and was in general a great lady and paragon of all virtue (aren't all Southern Moms?).

And then…I did the stupidest thing: "Mom, what are you talking about?? Dad's not coming today...he's in [insert state here for anonymity]. Is he coming? Are you guys getting back together?"

I didn't have to wait, be taught, or learn that something had gone horribly wrong. It was immediate. There were weird, uncomfortable reactions from everyone. Instantly, everyone blushed, the man looked visibly uncomfortable and began some lame stammering about being on the way home, my mom teared up and smiled very hard in my direction, graciously ignoring the situation and allowing the man to make a hasty retreat, the family friend (who already knew) suddenly found a deep interest in her food, and my sister…well, her reaction was the weirdest…her head jerked toward me and she just looked like she had been slapped. Like the wind was taken out of her. Now, in analyzing the situation and story in retrospect, I can understand social graces, and polite conversation in society. What I will never understand are reactions of the people or the next 2 hours.

• My sister was pissed that I said anything regarding the impending divorce because she didn't want to believe it or acknowledge it.
• Quiet and useless Tina seemed to be embarrassed and radiated a mixture of pity and…well…shame? Sympathy? I dunno the second one, but again. Useless.
• My mother…whew. My mother (who was and IS an awesome lady in so, so many respects) was literally mortified that this was now "OUT".

She was angry at me for saying it, angry to have seemingly been caught in a lie and angry ultimately, I imagine, at the entire situation. I, on the other hand, and apparently alone in this feeling, was completely dumbfounded. Yes, even at that age. She was trying to explain to me why what I did was "wrong". In hindsight, a simple "sorry" and "yes ma'am" would have diffused the situation much sooner. And possibly held a very different outcome in my own self comfort, how I view who people are, and myself in comparison.

I mean, clearly I didn't.
I questioned. I cried. I accused.

Ouch. Even as an adult I slightly wince at that conversation and its memory…but it was basically like this:
"I cannot believe you would say that!"
"Why? It's the truth…why would you tell him-"
"Don't you dare talk back to me…I am so embarrassed. It's bad enough…blah blah…your father….blah blah…and enough people know without…blah blahŔ
"I don't understand why you are mad. I was just asking and you told me never to lie."
"That's not the same thing…blah blah…what am I gonna do…blah blah…you know what you did was wrong…blah blah blah."

This went on in varying degrees of histrionics for a while. She cried. I cried. Mainly I cried because I felt like I was confused, getting yelled at, frustrated for not having a voice, and because I had done something to make her upset and cry (yes, I like to make people happy when possible and feel disappointed when I do something that directly or indirectly hurts someone. Don't have a heart attack.)

And here is what I took away from that situation. Number one, apparently if your spouse leaves the church vocation, cheats on you, drains your bank account, becomes involved in some not so legal or healthy activities, and files for a public divorce…you are the one that should be ashamed or embarrassed. And two, as long as you smile in public, regardless of what is happening on the inside, people won't feel uncomfortable. Now, granted that is a very basic distillation and there are definitely shades of lessons and emotions that could be analyzed to death…but this is my story. Those are the things that stood out to me at that moment. And I was pissed. Even then. I remember a very specific feeling of anger towards my father. I was angry at him for leaving, for causing family members pain, for being irresponsible and changing our way of life. I was certainly angry at him that day for setting events in motion for me to get yelled at, spanked (eventually she got tired of talking to me), and grounded.

"MichaelK", you ask, "Why would you tell such a personal story? And how does that answer the question?" Duh, it's so simple. It was then, in that moment and the hours that followed, that I began to process what it all meant to me. We had nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing. I mean, sure, for the era and generation of the times, we were in a fairly uncommon, taboo, and embarrassing situation (Especially in a really religious denomination and our church.) Sure, people were whispering, gossiping, glancing with pity, letting us know that "they felt for us" and "were lifting us up in prayer". I'm sure it was all meant very well, and with good intentions. But you know what…maybe they should have been a little less shocked, saddened and pitying and treated us like we were just normal human beings. I hadn't changed; I was still the same kid (wasn't I? Everyone seemed to be assuring me that life would continue as normal. So, why treat me any differently?) Same ole school, same book bag, same rockin' shoes. I still liked the same breakfast and flavor of Kool-Aid. Yet, somehow, overnight, suddenly I was the kid w/ no dad? Oh, sorry, your kids couldn't come play over at our house, but I was welcome to come over to yours? Allow me to just say:
"Aw, heellll naw!"

I became acutely aware that I didn't change or do anything wrong or bad. I never assumed it was MY fault, or that my parents needed to get back together. We were in a mess. Integral family members were at odds on the viewpoints of what had transpired, and life was kind of in shambles.

Funnily enough, the person that had done all of this; well, lucky for dear old dad that he wasn't there to pick up those pieces and the mess that was left. He was off partying in another state with what I assume would become my stepmother. So, no, I never felt that I wasn't as good as anyone else. In fact, I felt confusion at their pity and their need to express how awful it must be for us. I felt like they were sad people with not much better to do than create levels of drama for entertainment. Judging others made them feel superior. I just didn't buy the lie. I am very sad to say, that while I used this to strengthen myself and to become fiercely independent, it took my mother considerably longer to learn to feel assured and self secure.

The second issue that made me know I was just as good as anyone was an issue with my stepfather that involved a lot of anger on his part towards what I can only guess was his own life and issues. I honestly, cannot begin to wonder what was ever in his head or his heart towards me. I know this: It was just never good. So, rather than speculate, I'll tell you the result of those situations: I got tougher. I got meaner. I got more self reliant. I gained more self control. I learned how to research a topic, review it for myself, process, and then form an opinion all on my own. I learned to totally trust myself and my instincts and to never listen to naysayers and the words "you can't do that". So, while he wasn't very kind towards me, and while I've got a great scar with cool survival stories to tell at My-Fam-Is-Crazier-Than-Yours-Rallies, he really toughened me up for life situations that I would have never been prepared for otherwise. Again, a negative situation that ultimately wound up being a positive learning experience to draw on later in my life.

3. I'd like to know at what point in your life you became comfortable with yourself.
Honestly the first time I can recall being "comfortable" within my own skin and at ease with myself was around mid teens. I was kind of a precocious child and I was sometimes too talkative and too questioning about everything in the world around me. I wanted to know everything. And I wanted to know how it worked, and why? And could anything else do it? Could it do it better? Why?

I will say I was gifted, but I am sure I was an exhausting child. Hard times, good times, lulls before the storms…and more hard times. I am unsure to the quote and who to credit, but isn't there a saying about resistance and difficult times breeding strength and character? I am sure that's true, but it can also build pain tolerance and a level of numbness. And then, hopefully, the tools to cope will come, or at least distract you from anything too unbearable and teach a lesson. Mine was music. Well, anything in the Arts, really. I liked reading, painting, singing, playing instruments…anything creative and expressive was a great release. It was (going back to Question #1) when I discovered various aptitudes for arts, and certain scholastic subjects that I was both growing in my own self belief in my skills, and as a result…comfortable in sharing those talents or skills. Then, as I would learn something, I would teach things to others too…I settled into a more relaxed and "chill" person that was confident and aware of both my skills and the skills I need to work on. I've kept that mentality ever since. If I am good at it…I'll help out and do whatever I can for anyone. If I am not, then I'll be happy to find someone who is good at it, or I'll learn it and master it to the best of my ability. My personal opinion is that success to a large degree is when people are willing to step up and try something new when no one would take on the responsibility.

Not to make assumptions or be flippant, but the question denotes that self assurance, confidence and inner strength go hand in hand with being comfortable with yourself. Let me see if I can accurately explain on paper what I mean by this. I believe in myself. I know where my strengths lie, and what my weaknesses are. Many people, in my experience and personal conversations, don't do self evaluations, or if they do…many people I talk with don't do them honestly enough. Because they can be painful, they can make you see the need for change and for redirection in their lives. Taking a very naked and honest self inventory can reveal not only many wonderful qualities to celebrate and nurture into something great, but it can also reveal issues that need to be resolved, or skills that need to acquired or improved. No one is good at everything. No one can be everything to everybody. It's just not possible.

To me, the comfort and discomfort factors come largely into play with people that won't ever TRY anything outside of their very limited and suffocating comfort zones. But if it's too tight, it's not comfortable, now is it?

4. I'd like to know when you walk into a room and feel that everyone is better than you, what is your scale for measuring that?
I don't think I have ever walked into a room and felt that everyone was "better" than me. Seriously. Ever. No, really. I've never walked into a room of tall, dark, body builders with personal wardrobes by Tom Ford and discussing the minutes of the last Mensa meeting. Give. Me. A. Break! Now, I've certainly met people that I admired for specific traits or talents. I didn't consider it better, more of an opportunity to meet, talk, and learn from someone with either greater experience or knowledge of a subject I was interested in.

Better. "Better". I am mulling this word over and over and to be honest, there are some people that are better than me…at certain tasks. Or skills. Or with certain personality traits. I work at a gym (Anytime Fitness 55) and train people. But there are dudes that walk in that have been training and working on their fitness and physiques for decades. I also work at Rainbow and there are some committed people to very specific qualities of whole foods, produce and herbs. I have SO much to learn and they have spent years of their lives promoting and living a clean and organic lifestyle. Are they better? Am I any less interested, valuable, or committed because of their experience and knowledge? Should I stop what I am doing, quit training, and let my doctor know to deliver my depression meds to the darkened bedroom upstairs? (The answer is no, dummy!) Exactly…I am doing me. The best me I can (which isn't turning out too badly). Other people, well…they gotta do them. If I am lucky, maybe we'll become acquainted and they'll teach me something to take in my own journey.

For example, my friend Matt could sell anything to almost anyone. I admire that about him. I think that's absolutely great. And honestly, I am not a salesman and I could care less…I have no desire to be a great salesman. I've never been interested in that because I use cold logic and what would have to be common sense to show why someone would need something. I don't think that an emotional response to a feel good sales pitch would satisfy me. But then, I can probably write a SQL statement and mine a database as good, if not better, than anyone I know. Why? I like it. It makes me feel accomplished and I studied and applied real world experience and talked with Senior Level Programmers about their years of experience and trial and error and how to make life easier with blah blah blah…I could go on all day. But to compare one's self on any one facet of your life, accomplishments, looks, clothing, or money is just plain stupid. And if that's how you select your lovers, friends, and social circle…then I feel very sorry for you if you ever needed a real, true-blue friend.

"MichaelK! Why would you say that?"
Well, for starters because it is true, and mainly because to judge someone based on success, you would have to first DEFINE success. Can you? No, you can't. Not for the entire human race you can't. I bet that if you survey 100 people, you will get 100 different and distinct answers. And every one of those would have further breakdowns with conditional triggers for further happiness and imagined or real success. Seriously, wake up.

Every. Person's. Definition. Of. Success. Is. Different.

Don't make me tell the story…because I will!
Oh, alright, here goes: I have what I feel (hmph, KNOW!) are varying levels of success at different times in my life. I had dreams. I put those dreams into goals. I worked my ass off and spent a lot of time, energy, money, effort, blood, sweat, and tears to accomplish them. Some of them came easily, some came at a very, very steep price (and not just monetarily. Bye, bye innocence). But if it was important enough to me, it would DRIVE me to find a way to accomplish it. Oh, you want me to work extra hours, sure. Do I need to invest more money? Sure! Aw, I need to give up social time and R&R for some hard work and practice…yes, please. It'll be worth it. And you know what…it WAS! BUT, and this is an important and possibly divisive "butԅ How was my success measured to me? To others? To the world in general? If I was honestly worried about what others valued as success and not what I wanted to do with my life…I would be in a very different place in life, and I would probably not even be writing this blog, with the experience, hindsight, and life experience to make it honest, viable, and worth your time to read.

Example: So, when I had my music goals and wanted to get to a certain level of skill in playing and performance…I practiced. I got no great money for it. More accurately, I got no money. It was entirely a labor of love. However, I got to play on some GREAT Black Gospel Choir albums (Jackson Mass Choir for several years, and Mississippi Mass Choir – back in the heyday in the 90's) and that was a success to me.

Why? I accomplished what I wanted. I met the goal. I checked the box complete.

Example Two: Later in my life, I wanted to work with computers and specifically to build systems for healthcare and government. And I did it. It was fun. It was a team so awesome and so right for the time frame in computer technology, government approval and the need for the specific patient community. And we did some great work, made some national records, and improved the medicine and patient care for an entire nation's kidney patient population. Oh, just for the record, I did not get rich. In fact, we gave so much of that away for the simple fact that the patients and the users were so much better off with it and the government couldn't pay for a lot of it. But in return, we were given so many permissions and free reign to really make history and show what a small, dedicated software dev shop could do.

To me…TOTAL success! To others, perhaps it was just some government project that was obsolete and needs to be upgraded already. And it does…but for a decade it was the cutting edge and latest thing.

Example Three: So, I tried a different route. I took a job for money, dated the right person for status, and had a home in the right neighborhood. Isn't that the "American Dream"? To be financially secure (or better than secure), and have a trophy partner, and an amazing and beautiful home (with everything planned for entertaining your high up work friends and society bitches from the home owner's association. I mean, let's be honest, we need to get them tipsy and THEN ask for leniency on the new back deck and hot tub and waterfall's code and building specs…it's the NEW-Good-Old-Boy-who-you-know-system). Guess what?? I was miserable the whole time (yes, entire time). I'd rather live downtown in my old loft than in that big ass house in a majority-white, gated community with rules on how long the grass can be with both a minimum and a maximum (I am not completely against this as 4ft weeds and cars on blocks are just tacky and really shouldn't be in neighborhoods.) And I did actually love the trophy partner. In so much that you can love someone that you have nothing in common with except a public image and a memory of the honeymoon phase before Suburban drudgery set in. Maybe I should have settled for that not quite as socially and physically perfect dude that truly just loved me for who I was and what I wanted to be. And it pisses me off that even though I am probably the one that missed out on a great thing with him…I am still using and typing the word "settled". Meh.

So, to answer this question…No; I do not walk into a room and compare success stories with any particular career, socioeconomic group, race, ethnicity (yes, it's different than race…if you actually have to check the box on the census stuff…you know what I am talking about.), sexuality, gender, or physical attributes. I don't see the point. I sincerely hope people don't do that when they walk into a room with me. Trust me, at the end of the day, be you a billionaire or the guy that is always taking too long in front of me at the CoinStar machine, everyone in life is just trying to live. You just try to live, and live well and with purpose…you won't have time to notice, compare, and stress about the person next to you. Actually, I like that…Now that's success (to me)! Anyone who's got that won't be worried about comparing themselves to a room of dignitaries, celebrities, geniuses, or star athletes.

5. I'd like to know when you meet someone and you immediately feel they are your superior, can you stop and think through where that feeling comes from? What's the source of it, trace it back, take a look at what you know about them and what you know about yourself, how can you come to that conclusion without knowing anything about that person?
If I am being honest, for me personally, I don't meet someone and immediately feel that way. Hopefully this is evidenced by the above answers. This is very similar to #4, with the follow up detail added. The best I can give you is that I have met people that didn't affect me at all, and then I have met people that I felt threatened or insecure around because of specific actions or statements on their part. I don't like to be SO honest and then clam up here, so I'll just lay it all out and get pretty raw and naked with this questionnaire:

When it comes to personality, I am not even remotely worried about anyone being superior. My personality rocks and has been one of my main draws in almost every situation of my life I can remember. Even back to early childhood. I don't think anyone has ever said to me that I just suck to hang out with. No one's ever made me feel any kind of way, much less a negative feeling. And if we're listing things (we are, this is my blog), I'd say that with respect to….personality, wit, quick response on verbal sparring, creative and fresh topics and sayings in conversation, the ability to elevate my deportment and speech to either a higher level of society (expected in certain social settings) or lower both my speech, gestures, and vernacular to fit a multitude of social arenas…I am top notch. World Class. And like any good Gemini chameleon…I can do it very well, effortlessly, and almost always without notice or hitch.

There are areas where I will sometimes question myself, or ensure that I am on par with what I want to present and be known for. Fitness and Fashion. I mean, let's be honest: No one wants to be a poorly dressed fat ass. Do YOU know anyone? When it comes to matters of fitness, physique, and fashion…I am almost always comfortable. There have been a few times here or there that I can appreciate the hard work that someone puts into maintaining a fit and healthy physique. However, if I am having a fat day and I know I haven't worked out hard, and eaten correctly, rather than admiration, I'll find myself picking them apart. Interestingly enough, almost the exact same can be true for a superbly cut Italian blazer. It's like my heroin. And I will forever be a tad miffed over the fact that European designers always (or almost always) make the most gorgeous ready to wear menswear. And then I discover that it is almost always cut for freakin', girly-sized-waif-men with no shoulders or thighs. I probably DO make some comparisons and internally groan that I'd never be able to eat normally or be a successful personal trainer if I actually make myself fit into those clothes. When I analyze that bitchy, mean girl behavior…It is usually because I haven't worked that hard or had as noticeable results let's say on lats, or quads (stupid, unresponsive quads).

Now, ultimately, this doesn't mean I won't talk to someone I find to be of an equal or excellent trait that I am competitive with. In fact, I do try to find a common ground and silently remind myself of any number of other pretty fantastic things in my life. Nikka Costa sang it best when she said, "Everybody Got Their Somethin'." This does also help so that I am not being talked off of a ledge by some cop with the News crews (I want Howard Ballou) below and a Fire truck waiting to catch me because of some random dude's perfectly shaped, tear drop quad; Or the fact that many designers create clothing a size small on purpose today; Or my OCD need to focus on one or two things in the entire world in which it's okay for someone else to excel is okay.

In fact, I generally would be happy for this person if they were someone I knew or cared about…so I find this posturing and this weird "Alpha Male"-gotta-be-the-best mentality pretty taxing most days. This caricaturized version of an example is applicable across many venues for comparison and ultimately, compulsion. I truly think that repeated viewing, comparing, and feeling inadequate will lead to some type of obsessive compulsion to either create more comparisons, or ways to bridge the gap (real or imagined). Now, maybe that means that you should save more and get that new Gucci laptop case with the saddle leather and the interlocking G's. But maybe…just maybe, don't you think that's a band aid for an emptiness when you probably need stitches and a way to be happy with your perfectly nice AE satchel? At least with one, you can still pay rent, and buy food. And neither is going to make you a more interesting conversationalist or improve your outlook on life and charisma. One is just more expensive. Literally…that's it.

Okay, so if you have stayed with me this far and read with any interest…my ultimate statement and hope for the reader is this. Don't look to anyone beside you, in front of you, or behind you. You are the only focus you need to worry about. It's you that has to look your face in the mirror every day. No one else. Be proud of you. Do something every day that makes you happy to be you. And if you are NOT proud of you, and you have been slacking in taking care of your needs, then work on yourself and become someone you CAN be proud of.

FYI, it can still count as a New Year's resolution if you do it before the 31st.



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