There’s a not so subtle voice that wells up inside of me more often than I’d like to admit. It’s the ugly voice of comparison. This voice leads to one of two problematic feelings for me: inferiority or superiority. Because the truth about comparison is that it goes both ways. It’s the voice that says what I do doesn’t matter, because someone else is doing something better. It is the voice that minimizes what others do because I don’t see the value in it or understand it. It’s the voice that tells me I don’t have anything to offer because I don’t have everything together. It’s the voice that also says I don’t need to feel too bad about my shortcomings, because at least I’m not quite as much of a mess as so-and-so. But today I’d like to boldly declare, regardless of what it says, the voice of comparison is a liar.
The reason we compare ourselves to others, for better or for worse, is ultimately because we want our lives to matter. I know that I am not alone in this and so today I’d like to invite you to join me in listening to a different voice. One that doesn’t guide us to a place of self-deprecation or to a place of arrogance, but to a place of considering the unique role that we each have. This voice asks the question, “What is your best contribution to the world?” The answer to this question is always the same answer. For everyone. No matter what. The answer to the question, “What is your best contribution to the world?”, is quite simply, ‘You.” Your best contribution to the world is you. Your abilities, your resources and talents, and your relationships and experiences are uniquely yours. And that matters. You can contribute to the world by doing what you can, with what you have, where you are.
There’s no need to compare yourself to somebody else in order to determine how much you matter, because the world needs you to be you.
So now that we have that cleared up. We face another question. What happens if I don’t quite know what my abilities, resources or talents are? What if I can’t make sense of the place I currently am or the relationships I currently have? Here’s the fun part. You go on an adventure of self discovery and try things out. Here are a few ways to start.
Find What You Like to Do
Identify some activities or hobbies that you like. Find others that share those interests and build relationships with them. Here are a few ideas to start: Join a book club, attend a workout class, gather friends for a monthly supper club, sign up for a class or workshop, play basketball with some friends, play the guitar, learn a new craft that you’ve always wanted to try, take your dog to a dog park, take a walk around your neighborhood and talk to your neighbors.
Find ways you can use what you like to better the life of someone else. Love to cook? Bring someone a meal. Love a certain sport? Gather some friends for an intramural league or volunteer to coach a youth team or help at a sports camp. Enjoy gardening? What neighbor or coworker wouldn’t love a homegrown bouquet or a few fresh tomatoes or oranges? Find something that you like and consider how to bless others or invite others in.
Identify Your Strengths
The Strengths Finder 2.0 is a great book and comes with a code that gives you access to a highly comprehensive online assessment tool to help you identify your strengths. The basic premise of this book is that we often can identify our short-comings easily and spend a lot of effort to overcome them. However, there are parts of us where we naturally excel and most of our effort should go toward developing our strengths. At FLDWRK, we use this book in our startup incubator and have found that it’s worth every penny. (And we don’t get paid a penny to promote this book. We just really love it).
Contribute in Everyday Life
You may or may not be living where you want to, working where you want to, or are at the place you thought you’d be at this point in your life. Either way, no matter where you are, you can contribute to the world. Your neighbors, your friends, your coworkers, your family and the people in your city can benefit from the fact that you are in their lives. My friend recently left a couple of balloons and a nice card with a treat attached for each of her neighbors in their driveways as they got home from work. Another person I know lives in a third-world country, doesn’t have running water, and helps provide medical care to people in her community. Some other friends of mine love babies and step in to help families in crisis by temporarily caring for their children. Another friend of mine makes school lunches for her boys. She’s started offering to make lunches for their classmates as well. Moms take her up on it and when asked why she does it she says, “Because I can. And if I’m doing it anyway I might as well make someone else’s life easier by helping them out.” Someone else I know befriends people experiencing homelessness, uses his skills as an artist to paint their portraits, sells the paintings, and uses the funds to help his friends in a tangible way.
Me? Today, I made meals for my family, washed their clothes, and helped my son with math. Obviously I wrote a blog post too. It’s my hope that in my family they know they are loved and in turn, they love others. It’s my hope that in my writing, I can encourage others. I also went to the chiropractor. Because I have to take care of myself too. It isn’t much, but it isn’t not much, you know? It’s just me. Because it’s what I have to offer. To my family, to my community, to myself in 2017.
We each have our roles. And they each matter. Let’s say ‘no’ to the voice of comparison, and ‘yes’ to contributing to the world in our own unique ways.