Tag Archives: Competition

Self-improvement lesson 9. Life’s not a competition

I once had a childhood friend who at 22 was not only married with her first baby on the way, but had lived with her sighted man for 3 years prior to getting married. She was blind just like me. As a blind woman who just wants to be part of the mainstream world, I always strived to do everything I could for my blindness to become as unnoticeable as possible by trying to do what every one of my sighted friends did. I admired this childhood friend a lot, because to me she was someone who was so “normal” despite her blindness. I was just as integrated as her, but I just felt she was doing way better than me in every way.And when she had settled, I felt as if I had failed. I was 23, had no real marriage prospects and certainly no baby on the way. What I did have though, was a job in the BBC, but it’s hard to see yourself and your situation from another perspective when you don’t feel amazing about who you are which I didn’t at the time. And having a BBC job in London as a Norwegian 23-year-old is no small thing.

 

In the same way we look at someone else’s life and envy how perfect they seem, we look to others who achieve things we ourselves want to achieve and envy how they did it before us. But life isn’t a competition. And there is a different time for me to achieve something you already nailed.

 

I have come to believe in divine timing and that we can only progress with what we want when we’re truly ready. That might not always be when we think we’re ready though. My childhood friend clearly was in the right place for family life at 22. And although I wanted the same, I can see now that I was far from it. I have come a long way emotionally, spiritually and even physically from when I was 23 and I am much better equipped to deal with taking care of someone else apart from me now.

Likewise, I look at young wonder talents and feel a little twinge of envy. Imagine if my career could have started young like Beyonce, Rhianna or Britney Spears. Or imagine if I had received Young Journalist of the year award, something you have to be under 26 to achieve. And why couldn’t I have published my first novel at 23 like my favourite author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie? There certainly was no lack of will or passion from my side to achieve either. But there was a lack of both maturity on my part and the right nurturing to achieve it.

 

I am no longer 23, but my skin is thicker and my mind is a lot more focused. I still have decades ahead of me where I can achieve great things in my chosen fields. Just because I started later doesn’t mean I’m lagging behind.

 

It doesn’t matter if you do something before or after someone else. The important thing is that you do them when you have the capacity in the form of maturity, ability, economy time etc. It can be easy to look at life as a competition. But when that happens, it’s important to take a breather, disconnect from the pressure you create on yourself by meditating, journaling, exercising or relaxing in any other way that makes you forget about life just for a bit. And then come back with renewed strength.

 

I mentioned in a previous post how I sometimes look at other female artists I feel I can compare myself to and feel a little envious of their success. And even understanding that what they have now can be mine next year, doesn’t always help to make me feel better. But after having taken that timeout, I try and turn those negative feelings into a positive force that will make me go forward and achieving that success on my own terms and with my tools.

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the Blindtrap

I don’t think I know a single blind person who has escaped the “blindtrap”. Not entirely anyway. What is the blindtrap? It is variations on thinking that you’re somehow inferior because you’re blind. This feeling of inferiority can be manifested in many ways and some of them are extremely subtle. It can be obvious things from passing comments such as “You’d be so much more attractive if you could make eye-contact” and not getting jobs because of employers attitudes, to sighted people excluding you from helping out on communal cooking and decorating because they may think it’s difficult for you to join and being more efficient at many practical things because they can see.

 

I am sad, but not ashamed to say that I too am caught in this trap more often than I like at times. And I have to remind myself that sighted people are not better, sexier, more intelligent, and more capable than me just because they’re sighted.

 

I remember having a conversation with a good friend of mine whom I also used to work with. I couldn’t work out what I’d done for my team leader to dislike me so much. I felt like an annoying insect she wanted to smash against the window every time I had to speak to her.

“I think she sees you as competition. She’s pretty and blond like you, but you’re twenty years younger and fit. So maybe you remind her of what she used to be,” my friend said.

I was astonished to hear this. How could anyone see me, a blind girl as competition? “Don’t be ridiculous,” my friend said when I pointed out that since she was sighted, she’d always be a lot more attractive than me anyway.

 

I’ve talked with this particular friend a lot about my inferiority issuex. And he has made me understand that I am just as sexy, intelligent, capable and resourceful as someone who can see. I’ve

even had men, both sighted and blind, asking if I’d have their kids because they’d want to make sure their kids got well brought up by a capable woman with strong ethical principles. And that’s a huge compliment.

There are many small and easy steps sighted people can take to avoid giving their blind friends or family members feelings of inferiority .

  • Involve them in communal activities. Not sure of their abilities? Ask. “Can you cut these onions?” If the answer is no, suggest something else, or let the blind person tell you what he/she can do
  • Expect them to pull their weight. If you’re having a party where everybody is bringing stuff, make sure everybody is bringing stuff. Last time I checked, blindness doesn’t interfere with ones abilities to bake a cake or buy a bottle of wine. This is also important for parents who have both blind and sighted kids. I was expected to do housework just like my brother was. Different chores yes. But I had no excuse not to do them.
  • Unless asked for, don’t take over a blind person’s chore because you can do it quicker. If you do something regularly, be it house work, cooking or gardening, you’ll get good at it no matter how well you see.
  • Don’t pick up objects to be helpful. My friends often pick up my handbag or cane when we’re leaving a restaurant without telling me, only for me to spend ages feeling for it on the floor. It makes me feel a little stupid. I know it comes from a good place, but….. Just leave it for me to pick up.

This list could include more points, but I can’t think of any right now. But as long as you use your common sense and ask questions you should be cool.

What blind people can do? Soul searching, living and learn to recognize that it is possible for a sighted person to sometimes feel inferior to you because of who you are or what you can do. I still fall into the blindtrap, but not as frequently as when I was younger, or for different reasons. I probably always will in some cases. But having sighted people around me who just treat me like a normal person and don’t act like my blindness is an inconvenience for them or a reason to exempt me from daily life, does a lot to make me feel as valuable as them.