By: Cate Goldman
Do you ever play the “I know her” game? You know, that game where you’re walking to the subway on your morning commute and you pass by someone who you’re SURE is an insert model, actress, the next CEO of a fortune 500, and you convince yourself that you know her. You know her simply because she’s so insert beautiful, talented, successful. And because you know her so well, it’s pretty obvious to you that by day she’s headed to a job she’s absolutely in love with, and by night to a boyfriend who’s absolutely in love with her. But is it that obvious?
I used to play this game a lot, until it became more than a game. Instead of innocently making up the life stories of those around me, I began projecting my own unfulfilled wants and needs onto these strangers. If I woke up to a blemish on my face, well, the woman that I passed on 55th and 3rd was SURELY unaffected by the woes of life because she had clear skin. If I was critiqued on my performance at work, well, the woman sitting next to me on the subway was SURELY smiling because she had just received a promotion.
If you’ve ever played this game yourself, you’ve probably come to a point where the stories you create about strangers are so incredibly detailed that you catch yourself in the act. That is, the act of placing your own insecurities onto someone else because it’s easier than facing them head on. But what if, instead, we were able to share in our common humanity? What if, instead of seeing that beautiful woman and quickly placing her into a box of privilege, entitlement, and resentment, I saw her as my sister. What if, instead of using my envy towards her as a way to distance us, I could use her beauty as a mirror to see my own. What if, instead of finding in others what we DON’T see in ourselves, we found in ourselves what we DO see in others.
As human beings, we’re so quick to judge. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Maybe it reflects a unique awareness that we have. We are so painfully aware of our own insecurities that we can actually project them onto others, letting them manifest in ways that don’t threaten the story we’ve written for ourselves. But what if we flipped the script. Maybe next time we find ourselves writing the story of some other girl’s life we can, instead, begin to edit our own.
What would it look like to recognize the beauty in yourself every time you acknowledged it in her? Foreign? Uncomfortable? Terrifying? Sure, at the beginning. But, like anything, the more we practice the better we become. And I have a feeling that once we make it a daily habit to see the goodness in ourselves, we can see others for ALL that they are, rather than as the one-dimensional stories we’ve so quickly created for them.
Once we realize that others, like ourselves, can face insert insecurities, heartbreak, failure AND be insert beautiful, talented, successful, we realize that we can too. We begin to understand that positive and negative attributes, instead of being mutually exclusive, are in fact complementary. Then, and only then, can we do justice to our whole stories, and, in turn, our perfectly imperfect selves.