Instead of Jellyfish

What is lovable within me? This is not a rhetorical question. I really don’t know the answer.

I have a habit of comparing myself to others. Other writers. Other video editors. Other podcasters. Everything other creators make I respond with, “God that’s so good…I wish I could have done that.” Just last night I was reading a Brain Pickings article, but I couldn’t finish it because I wished I had written it.

By comparing myself to others, collaboration with other creators is impossible. In their presence I not only feel like a fraud, I feel like I’m an actor unfit for the role. Surely someone else is more fit for the part? At least some frauds make use of their fraudulence. Whereas I can only ruminate on my fraudulence. You’re better off working with so-and-so. At least they know what they’re doing. I haven’t got a clue.

By comparing myself to others, it’s as if I’m testing the limits of ingratitude. It’s as if I’ve been given a check for whatever I’m worth in dollars, and I’m ripping it to shreds and stomping it to pieces. I don’t want my talent, my sense of humor, my point of view, my style…I want theirs.. They’re more witty, observant, well-spoken, funny, smart, wise, creative. In this way I’m denying my innate talents, denying my potential — denying me.

A cliched solution: I must accept myself! Know thy greatness! You must love yourself. Etc. Etc. I think I’m going to be sick. Why is the solution to self-pity so often that narcissistic ‘self-acceptance’? But that’s what I tell my friends when they talk to me about their self-doubt. Why can’t I give myself that “permission to be yourself”? It’s what I tell my friends all the time. “Just do you.”

Why do I like my friend’s work more than my own? Why can’t I let myself live that very same cliché that I tell my friends? “Just do you”…well, I’m doing me. I’m doing me and I wish I were doing someone else. And like all profound insights into human nature, sex is the subject from which I’ll pull out the moral of this rant. Sex requires both parties to bring their uniqueness to the table. I must bring what makes me unique, and she must do the same. But there’s a million guys with bigger…! And that’s how inescapable the comparison prison really is. Not even sex is a safe haven.

Comparison is the masterwork of the spiritual utilitarian. The comparative soul, the soul which looks not inward but gazes at the panoramic view of everyone around him makes use of other people’s success as a measure of his own…contempt. What else could the comparative soul be seeking other than contempt, especially a contempt directed at himself? Remember, I feel as if I’m denying myself when I compare myself to other people. I feel envious of other people’s talents while embittered over my lack of what they have. If I were skilled at seeking happiness, why would I keep such a watchful eye on what other people are up to?

What do I see in those people I compare myself to? I’m seeing in them things that I don’t see in myself. It’s as if I’m a marine biologist studying some ocean, wishing there were elephants instead of jellyfish. But did the marine biologist choose to become a marine biologist? Ha! My destination is just around the corner and I’ll soon be done with this rant. It’s true: I didn’t choose to be me. I need to accept this, right? I need to accept that I’ll always be me. That it’s a good thing. Self-worth…self-acceptance…self-love…self-love. From where? I’m about to tell you.

I’ve arrived at what might be the answer to my problem.

When somebody loves you, looks you in the eye, kisses you goodnight – these are all confirmations that there is something lovable within you. But that’s the greatest mystery of all: figuring out what’s lovable within you. You’ve never had a clue. All you understand about yourself is that you’re insufferable and a bit lonesome. And so, having given up on the problem yourself, you must outsource the problem to someone else, someone who’s got a clue or two as to why someone as insufferable as you is someone worth kissing goodnight. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find someone who kisses you goodnight. And it’s here, in the presence of someone who loves you that you find your self-worth. At least, that’s where I find mine. If you know of any other place more abundant with self-assurance, please let me know.

But what if…what if they go away? It can happen, and it does happen. I know someone whose wife vanished almost overnight. She had caught an ear infection. Within hours it became a brain tumor…and then she died. He found out about her death an hour before his flight to go see her in the hospital. It can happen. It does happen.

It now seems like a fruitless investment to derive all my self-worth from one person. But the annoying question comes up: will anybody else see anything lovable within me?

“Will anybody else see…” I know it’s utterly impossible to accept what I’m about to say, but that question is useless. If at least one person could see something lovable within you, what more evidence could you possibly need as proof that you’re not as insufferable, ugly, annoying, pitiful, stupid, unfunny, and wretched as you think you are? That you’re as insufferable, ugly, etc. etc. as they were? And what’s love anyways, if not two ugly people fucking each other at 4 in the morning? But I’m not trying to figure out what love is. I’m trying to figure out what to do in the absence of love.

It characterizes billions of people, the absence of love. It characterizes all of us, the inability to answer the question: what is lovable within me?

What is loveable within me?

This is not a rhetorical question.

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