Enjoy life more by ceasing to compare yourself to a perfect alternative self.
Posted Sep 08, 2013
Many people, despite their appearances on social media, are dissatisfied with their own lives. Many create another life, where they either put forth the image of a positive and fulfilling life while clandestinely admonishing themselves and feeling inferior to their peers, while others create fantasy lives where they have an alternative life that is more rewarding. Some do both. Perhaps there is a way to be more satisfied with and embrace the life one has.
A common complaint heard in therapy is regret for the path taken, and a remorse for what the complainant believes, was a better choice unlived. In fact, many seem too compare themselves to an almost perfect alternative self, that made all of the right choices, did things right the first time, made no mistakes and blossomed into an imagined self with a totally different life. Then they compare themselves to this nearly perfect imagined self as if they are far behind in an imaginary race to what they define as success.
For example, I’ve heard countless times how an individual has “lost time” due to a choice he made, and is now far behind where he “should be”. Albert Ellis, the founder of REBT, suggested that whenever one uses the term “should” or “ought” she is judging herself negatively. His point exemplifies the “other life”. Perhaps it is normal to compare oneself to an imaginary self that has made better decisions. Lessons can be learned. But it has a somber downside.
The popularity of online fantasy games, such as “World of Warcraft”, “Second Life”, and “EverQuest”, has superseded alternative life games of the past like “Sims”. People have been attracted to these games since they’ve been around, even before they were computer based or online (Dungeons and Dragons). These aren’t mere video games; for many the draw is the ability to take on a different identity when playing them. And this isn’t considering fantasy sports games.
The aforementioned games place in popular culture was evident in television and online videos. In what everyone heralded as a phenomenal television show of the nineties, “Freaks and Geeks”, the “geek” characters lamented how their avatars could do what they never could, fight epic battles and /or win the hand of a princess as they played “Dungeons and Dragons”. In a spoof of fantasy football, Cracked.com’s Soren laments how he only has a few good years left of fantasy football, before he’ll have a family and kids and his life is ruined. Though a spoof, some young adults think that the fun of life ends when maturity arrives (or is accomplished). The theme is the same in many representations of these games; you can escape the tediousness of your life by engaging in this play.
Not all who engage in games do so to escape their life. As was the theme in, “Substance Use: Escaping or Embracing Life?”, some simply enhance their life with substances, games, or other forms of escape. But far too many come to depend on these escapes, giving them an undue and self-defeating priority. For some, the escape negatively impacts their life, leading to problems in relationships or with responsibilities such as work.
For those who, for one reason or another embrace an “other life”, there is an alternative solution to escape: finding a way to embrace your life and your choices. This begins by working to cease the self-deprecation involved in comparing yourself to an imaginary, and unrealistic, self. Although it is natural to measure oneself against goals, it has to be done with a realistic vision in mind. Too often these comparisons are too idealistic. Second, when comparing where you are and where you’d like to be, look at progress rather than perfection.
There are many choices in one’s daily life that are taken for granted, that are perceived as simply “the way things are”. If one’s life is lacking, a good beginning would be evaluating choices that keep one stagnated, and looking at alternatives that might provide more zest in life. Everyone would benefit from adding more enjoyable, but varied, things into their lives. For example, for some coffee is a treat. For others, it has become a necessity. If one makes small alterations in routine, what has become mundane and taken for granted can become a treat. The perception is often all that need be altered. In other cases one has to walk away from what he believes is making life tolerable, to begin to find other interests and enjoyments.
Habits are hard to break. It is often the removal of habitual ways of responding to the environment that opens new doors and brings more enjoyment and excitement in life. This begins with a more mindful approach to life. Doing this is difficult, but worth the effort.
Copyright William Berry 2013
Cracked.com; Sorest Loser in the History of Fantasy Football; retrieved from http://www.cracked.com/video/fantasy_football_18470/
Freaks and Geeks, Season 1, Episode 18.