(Almost) everyone is a critic. Have you noticed this? When I got really into reading I started using the library. A few weeks later someone said ‘don’t you get grossed out about all the germs on library books and now you’re reading them in your bed at night?’. I thought, well geez, I didn’t but now…
Recently when asked about my ability to crank out 50+ books a year I was offering some of my secrets. One of them is that I like to read at the gym in the morning. The person responded ‘don’t you think you retain a lot less info when you are doing two things at once?’ Thankfully, I was prepared for this one. I responded that only 3% of people read 50+ books a year. So, if you factor in that a few of mine happen at the gym I’m probably still safely in the top 10% of people. I can live with that.
When it comes to books this isn’t a big deal. I don’t particularly care to please people with my reading habits or even my material (and yes, there are plenty of people who criticize my subject matter). In the rest of life though, I find this to be a bigger deal. I am frustrated by people’s criticism. From time to time I am downright outraged by people’s negativity and the thoughtlessness with which they wield it. I am annoyed by people’s assumptions.
I was volunteering with a lady who asked about my dating life. It’s not a secret to those who read this blog that my dating life is one of the only aspects of my life that I prefer to keep to myself. I have chosen to get in relationships, out of them, and even stay out of them and enjoy singlehood over the last decade or so. I politely informed this lady that I was not married (that much is not a secret) and she responded with ‘I’m so sorry you’re single’. I responded, ‘I’m not’.
The truth is, some people don’t want you to have it all. Some people will pick at your life. Others will assume that you want the same things they do. But I have built a life I love and I am not apologetic for that. I don’t wish I was married. I haven’t found anyone yet that I want to do the rest of life with. And maybe I will and we’ll adventure through the rest of forever (however much of it is left by then) together.
I don’t wish that I had what other people have. I don’t wish that I looked like other people look. I’m not scared of germy library books and I don’t feel bad that I read at the gym. I’m not sorry for the life I have. Do I wish other people would quit picking at it? Well, I do, but maybe not for the reason you’re thinking.
I wish people would quit looking for things wrong with my life and focus on living the life they want. I wish they would quit assuming they know what I want or that I don’t already have it. What I’ve found in my adult life is this – if you love your life it is easy to be happy for other people. Not everyone wants to read 50 books a year. Some people don’t enjoy travel. Your bucket list may look nothing like mine. And success, to you, doesn’t have to be the way I define it for me. So when you tell me about your life I can celebrate your victories and I can be excited about the life you’re living.
This came up in conversation with my Mom this week. As we celebrated our excitement about my Dad’s new job she expressed that she worried how it made people feel who weren’t celebrating the same. Is it important to be sensitive to other people? Yes. Absolutely. Hands down. But I reminded her that we have celebrated a million other people’s victories when we weren’t having one. The year we lost almost every game, we didn’t wish all our friends were losing too. You can be happy for other people even when you don’t have what they have. And I’m going to make the argument that you can have it all, in your own way.
I have fallen in love with this quote by Jillian Michaels who, admittedly, is nothing like me (oh, and maybe I do kind of want her body):
Today I want you to ask yourself one question.’Why not you?’ Why not you to do something for work that you love? Why not you to a healthy body? Why not you to have healthy love? Why not you to be, have, or do anything you have ever dreamed?
Why not is right.
Along with absolutely everyone I struggle with insecurity from time to time. Usually over silly things. I worry I’m not smart enough. I worry that I’m not capable enough. Or I worry, most of all, about failing. My friends would quickly tell you that I am always pushing them but they would also tell you that I push myself harder than anyone else. I expect more of myself then I expect of anyone else. And I would consider something a failure if I did it even if I woul reassure you in the same situation that your best was enough. But one thing I don’t do, is measure my life by anyone else’s. I’m making my own way. I’m giving myself enough room to have hopes and dreams that aren’t what anyone else would choose for me. And right around the time I turned 30 I quit apologizing for it.
The secret? Well, I guess when I really got to know my Savior I quit apologizing for who he made me to be. And for every time I worry that I don’t have what it takes I ask, why not me?
Here’s an exerp from a book I’ve been reading that hits the nail on the head:
Have you been comparing what you’ve been given with someone else – physical appearance, intelligence, relationships, accomplishments, energy level, or temperament? I must come to identify, cultivate, invest, prize, and enjoy the gift that have been given to me. The Lord of the gift is very wise. He has entrusted to you everything you need to fulfill the purpose for which you were created. – John Ortberg, If You Want to Walk on Water You’ve Got to Get out of the Boat