Recently I had a dream so potent that it has stayed with me for more than a week.
I was walking with some people I used to know, who are very sophisticated and elegant. We were heading towards one person’s home, then they fell into a conversation I didn’t understand, and started to gain pace. Suddenly it was like my legs had a rubber band around them, just above the knees. My legs would only take small steps forward, and I couldn’t separate them enough to lengthen my stride and catch up with the others. I was shouting at them to wait for me but they were too engrossed in their conversation to notice me.
Soon they progressed so far ahead I lost sight of them, and I didn’t know where I was going. I became hopelessly lost, and got stuck, briefly, trying to climb over a seawall. Eventually they realised that I didn’t know where I was going and came looking for me. I was quite distressed abut the fact that my legs had failed me and that I hadn’t been able to stay with them. “I just couldn’t keep up with you,” I said to them sadly.
I just couldn’t keep up with you.
This is the line that has been bouncing around my head ever since that dream. I wrote it down in my dream diary when I woke up, but I didn’t really need to – the meaning is so obvious. When I tried to follow other people’s path, I lost my way.
Wanting to keep up with other people – specifically, people I perceive to be cooler, hotter, more successful – is an old pattern of mine. It’s that whole ‘fitting in’ strategy we adopt in our teenage years and often results in us overspending on material goods in adulthood (keeping up with the Joneses, in other words). It can also result in us painting the picture of a perfect life on social media – and Brisbane model Essena O’Neill, 18, certainly did a brave thing this week by admitting her Instagram shots were faked in order to cast herself as someone to envy and admire.
For me, the urge to keep up with other people is problematic for several reasons. The first is that it’s based on comparisons. It involves me assessing other people, concluding that they are superior to me for whatever reason, and putting them on a pedestal. This is unwise, given I have no idea what is actually going on in people’s lives beyond the surface. Are they good people? Who knows! Are they happy? They probably have the same problems as everyone else. Are they better than me? Well, no, actually – since life is not, whatever Nike would like us to believe, a competition. I love this line in the 90s hit Sunscreen Song: "The race is long, and in the end, it’s only with yourself."
There’s another problem here. Worrying about what other people have, look like and appear to be doing takes my focus away from where it needs to be: on my own growth and development.
This dream has been a wake-up call (literally!) that I need to address the way I compare myself to others, and also the way that I measure my own value. This is not a new lesson; I’ve referenced my struggles with comparison and self-worth in many previous posts. But just like those angel cards that keep recurring in the daily readings I do for you guys, these messages will keep coming up until I can truly take them on board and move on. The Universe will not stop throwing these messages at me until I learn the lesson.
I can’t keep up with other people, and I don’t need to. I am enough.