Too many people suffer from a feeling of “I’m not enough” – I haven’t accomplished enough, I don’t have enough, I’m not good enough, I haven’t been rewarded for my hard work, or I’m never in the right place at the right time. The “not enough” feeling can come from many different places, but its outcome is almost always the same: I feel incomplete. There is something I am missing, or something that I need in order to feel whole.
If having this empty feeling weren’t enough, what some people do to try and fill it is to make someone else look bad or feel badly about their life. This can take many forms – criticizing another person, blaming them, or pointing out their flaws or shortcomings to another person in the form of gossip or backbiting.
If I am able to bring you down and I can stand on the higher ground while doing so, that makes me the bigger, better person and you the lowlife, right? Nope. Unfortunately for those who try this approach, it only makes most people feel worse. The fact is that we are all interconnected somehow. We all feel the same sorts of pain, and all experience the same emptiness and feelings of being unworthy from time to time. While it may feel good in the moment to “dump on” the other person, this actually comes back on us. In fact, we can never dump enough that we begin to feel good. It’s a vicious cycle where we have to believe more and more deeply that the other person is wrong or bad in order for us to be right or worthy.
This “I’m okay but you are definitely not okay” approach to life is a losing battle. The old Groucho Marx joke, “I would not care to be a member of a club that would have me,” belongs here. We push people away who are trying to be our friends or our supporters because we believe that by diminishing their importance or worth, we increase our own.
Before we can fill the empty void inside of us, we have to recognize that there is no one “out there.” Each person is carrying their own pain and each person’s pain is relevant and important. Putting more pain on top of what they are carrying does not weaken our load – it increases theirs, and ours by extension. Why would we want to hurt someone else? Why would we want to say we’re better, or better off, than they are? Only in a desperate quest to find a way to fill a hole we are missing inside ourselves.
The next time you are inclined to be jealous, resentful, critical, or demanding of another person, stop and ask yourself what’s inside that is pushing you in this direction. What feelings are you trying to avoid that force you to focus on another person’s situation? The truth is that even with our spouses, our children, our parents or our siblings, no one else’s life should have a bearing on our feelings of satisfaction or self-worth.
The next time you find yourself – either internally in your own mind, or externally to another person – debating the merits of what someone else is doing, criticizing their lifestyle or choices, or finding fault with what they’ve done, turn it back on you. Not to be self-critical but to ask yourself, “What could I learn about me right now from this situation? What message is my own mind trying to send me by asking me to focus on someone else?” Just observe it. Learn from it. Don’t use it as a chance to beat yourself up more.
This doesn’t mean we have to like everyone or choose to hang around those who are hurtful to us. Remove yourself, both internally and externally, from those who want to hurt you, but make a conscious choice not to spread hurt to anyone in your universe either.