Congratulations is a word often said through gritted teeth. Even more so when the recipient has achieved something we haven’t. Congratulations on your six-figure-sum promotion. Congratulations on your perfect Pilates bottom. Congratulations on your whirlwind engagement to a dashing multi-millionaire. Is that a princess cut diamond? Three carats? Oh and a honeymoon pregnancy? Honestly, I couldn’t be happier for you.
While we’re gushing and fawning, and grinning away as though our life depended on it, we’re also asking ourselves the question, why? Why despite my university education has my salary flat-lined at the average income mark? Why is my bottom, or rather its owner, so resistant to Pilates? Why, instead of a fairytale romance, did I have to endure years of heartache before finally negotiating my way into an engagement? Why isn’t my life as perfect as I’d hoped it would be?
Then at the end of such self-indulgent neurosis, I realise I’m sounding like a spoilt brat. I should be grateful for what I have. I should do affirmations. Count blessings. Be thankful. There’s always someone worse off than I am. Many, in fact.
However, we live in a society driven by aspiration. We’ve been conditioned to strive, to compete, to compare. We want better, the best. And we’re told we deserve it.
So when one of our peers triumphs, in a seemingly easy and effortless fashion, it’s understandable we’re a bit peeved.
When I was young, proud and unwilling to accept defeat, I worked from the theory that there was some kind of divine calibrator of success. That, for example, a girl far prettier than me may somehow lack the attributes with which I had been blessed.
‘Yeah, who cares if she’s a size 6, I’m a mathematical genius.’
If I read an intelligent well-articulated book by a female professor, I’d rationalise that she was a tweed-clad spinster who made jam. Then, when I flipped the sleeve to see a gorgeous young woman whose bio referenced a country house, four sandy haired children and an adoring husband, I’d be stumped. Where was my get-out clause then?
Even now, I still harbour an extensive list of excuses to explain why I haven’t fulfilled my potential. I have twins. That’s my career excuse nailed. My dodgy knee prohibits any rigorous fitness regime. Bonding time with my husband justifies evenings lost to Prison Break and wine.
However, when I open a magazine to see some perky woman with bouncy hair declaring she has written a best-selling trilogy while breast-feeding triplets, I have no alternative but to accept my failings.
As I’ve grown older and a little more tolerant of my limitations, I’ve realised the question isn’t simply, why are some people better than I am? The real question is why do I care? According to the theory of abundance, success isn’t a finite resource. Another person can’t steal our odds. In fact, it was the accomplishments of others that afforded us the possibilities we have today.
So now, when faced with a superior being, one who appears desperate to share their joy with me, joy at accomplishing something I have failed to do. I summon my internal mantra and allow a beaming smile to sweep across my face. For, I am secure enough in the knowledge that their strengths in no way contribute to my weaknesses.
And besides, just because they’re super-successful doesn’t mean they’re happy, right?
Read more matchmaking antics in Haley Hill’s bestselling novel ‘It’s Got to Be Perfect: the memoirs of a modern-day matchmaker’