We have been taught from childhood never to compare ourselves with others. The Desiderata phrased it straightforwardly, “If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter…“.

It was never easy trying to live by this principle. I am and have always been, possibly from the moment of conception, a deceptively competitive person. I’ve had my share of “battle strategy” planning, subtle comebacks and “I-am-doing-this-because-I-come-first” decisions. The shunning of comparison with a being other than myself is a constant struggle. In time, it became associated with unhealthy envy, something akin to low self-esteem and therefore, should be avoided at all costs. I perceived it as something negative, up until recently.

Here’s what I realized — to stop looking around (and at other people for that matter) is to limit your perspective. To limit your perspective is to risk taking for granted all the good things you have, that other people wish they have and that some people would give anything just to have. This form of limitation blocks escape avenues when troubles come in huge waves and one is drowning in despair. It transforms an otherwise normal life into an unsavory, barely edible dish that you are forced to swallow at gunpoint.

Thankfully, reminders to look around and see the positive aspects of my life come when I seem to need it the most — people who cast a spotlight on the wonderful things that are at my plate by subtly pointing out what is not in theirs.

I am not trying to sound like a “manufactured-and-packaged-for-mass-consumption-sunshine” person. Neither do I wish to come across as somebody who gets her self-esteem boosts at the expense of others. I do not take delight in somebody’s suffering. Sadism has never been my style.

I am just another soul who’s trying to look past the negatives of this world and be thankful for the occasional jackpots that are thrown my way. I am not the world’s most optimistic person. The power of positive thinking never worked for me. I’m more of the expect the worst and prepare for sudden siege kind of woman. But hey, I do on occasion and upon remembrance, send my Creator a silent “Thank you, thank you, thank you. I owe you big time…“. At least that should count for something, right?

The Desiderata ends with a hopeful note — “With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy“.

I am striving to be happy, and you know what? There are times when I actually succeed in it. And it’s all because of the people who dropped by and taught me in his/her own way that I actually had it easy. That things could have gotten worse, and that they do for most of humankind.