Noise in Plan View

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on November 04, 2021 # Lifestyle

My best friend got married when she was 22 years old, and I had only barely had my first boyfriend. She gave birth to her first of three beautiful daughters when I was back to being very single again, and she has had solid support for people her whole life. I also have solid support people, but not the kind that’s in love with me, or who calls me a mother.

Then, we have the people around me who can walk, play sports, and access the world in a way that, at times, I so desperately want. I realize those people have struggles and complications that could stand tall next to my paralysis and wheelchair-dependence, but they’re able-bodied. How bad can their life really be?

Now, imagine if I was truly hung up on those comparisons: I’d have no hope at happiness when I’m rolling around the world contrasting myself to everyone around me. My illusion that those people are better off or have a better situation than mine shows my blindness to reality, which is that we’re all struggling in some way(s). Just because she has a husband who loves her or because they can run across a field, doesn’t mean there’s not a truckload of other turmoil in their background.

Comparison, my friends, will take you down. So, how can you get away from it?

  1. Remember the reality. When people post on social media or catch you up on their lives over coffee, what you’re probably getting is the highlight reel; people don’t usually flaunt about the headache they wake up with every morning, or the complete misery of their workday. Instead, you see that they had a frothy glass of coffee and a chocolate biscotti for breakfast, and you assume they have a happy, organized life. But, that’s not reality. Stop spending your emotional energy trying to keep up with the lives you think you’re missing out on and put the focus back on yourself.
  2. Invest in things that matter. We’ve become so dang preoccupied with what we see on our social media feed, that we forget to pay attention to ourselves. Rather than logging onto Facebook when you get home from work, try taking time to rest. Work on building the relationships you have in your life, even if that just means your dog. Investing in yourself could also look like: reading a book, cooking a meal, or calling your mother.
  3. Count your blessings. When you get caught hung up in comparison, the first thing to go is awareness of the good things going on in your life. I read someone who wakes up every morning and writes 3 things he’s thankful for – on his phone’s Notes app, 3 quick things, easy peasy. That could look like: My coffee maker; Early, quiet mornings and; My stanky Morning Breath - if you like that kind of thing. Pretty soon, you’ll have a long list of your blessings to refer back to when you’re feeling bummed.
  4. Celebrate others. Don’t feel like you’re losing just because they’re winning; other peoples’ success has nothing to do with you, so celebrate with them and continue to work toward your own goals. When your friend gets a new job, be happy for her. If someone shares big news with you, get on top of that enthusiasm. When someone buys a house, go to the housewarming party. Your enthusiasm is free, so give it away for free. You will want the same in return one day.
  5. Set goals for yourself, and work toward them. Make those goals based on your own life, not other people’s lives. Where are you now, compared to where you were last year? How about 5 years ago? Recognize the learning, growing, stretching, and improving you’ve done. Then, celebrate!

Recognize that everyone’s life clock is ticking at a different speed, and there’s no such thing as being “late” for major life events. I didn’t get married until last year when seemingly everyone around me was celebrating their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th anniversaries. Marriage was a big stick for me, but buying a house and having kids are two more off a long list of common hang-ups. It’s useless to compare myself to other people because we’re all on different tracks and with different circumstances clouding our skies. Stop comparing yourself to other people around you and focus on yourself. For me, that looked like slowing down to enjoy being an Aunt Keke to three beautiful girls.

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at https://kristinbeale.com/. Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.