When I was 11, I auditioned for a ballet school. Miss Jo, the founder of the program, and of The Dayton Ballet Company, came to the auditions and sat next to my mom.
“Your daughter has beautifully arched feet,” she told my mom. “Although we wish all dancers had high arches, it will make it more difficult for her to learn pointe. Keep her out of the advanced classes so that she doesn’t become discouraged.”
I got into the program and stayed in the beginner classes for awhile. A typical fifth-grader with a dream to be a professional ballerina, I grew impatient and wanted to be on pointe, like the other dancers my age.
A year or two later, fueled by ambition, I decided to spend a summer training with advanced dancers, junior members of the ballet company. They were all able to do these beautiful pirouettes and other sophisticated moves on pointe, while I was confined to pliés at the barre — my feet were too unstable, due to my high arches.
Eventually I got discouraged and quit ballet altogether.
It’s a problem with me … this comparing-jealousy stuff.
Friends have told me it’s unbecoming.
No matter what the activity — dancing, swimming, writing — I will find a half dozen people who do it better than I, or have had more success than I have, and I will hear the voice, “They have this area covered, you may as well give up.” Like there is only room for three people to write well in this world before the universe cries out, “No more space! Pursue something else!”
Stay in your own lane.
Bestselling author Brené Brown wrote on her Facebook page the other day: “I swim for many reasons but none more important than the constant reminder to ‘stay in my own lane.’ Nothing ruins my swim or my creative process more than comparison and competing. Sometimes I literally have to repeat: focus and be grateful for what’s happening here.”
Maybe this staying in my own lane — or “being me very well,” as I wrote about the other day — is so challenging for me because, as a twin, I’ve been fighting for my own identity from the day of my conception. As one of four girls born within three years, I felt as though I had to be exceptional at something in order to get noticed, and that if I didn’t claim something (my curling iron, brush, acne medicine) and hide it, it would disappear in the mess that was our bathroom.
I joke with my twin that, being the firstborn and the heavier infant, I sucked out all the good stuff from within the womb and left her with the remainders. That kind of panicked and short-sighted perspective — grab it [notoriety, success, readers] before it disappears! — seems to be where my primitive brain lands. It’s only when I’m babbling on about the latest attack of the green-eyed monster to a friend — usually my writing (and life) mentor Mike Leach — that I realize how ridiculous and territorial I sound.
Be your best.
The sad truth is that I can’t be the best. Someone is always going to be able to do more (and prettier) pirouettes, have more Facebook or Twitter followers, be on the New York Times bestseller list for longer. But I can do my best. That’s the only thing that matters. If you have done the very best job you can do, then you can breathe a sigh of relief and feel some satisfaction.
Until jealousy strikes again.
Originally posted on Sanity Break at Everyday Health.