A while back Amanda and I were invited to the birthday party of a friend’s child. The attendees at the party came from a wide variety of family and friends. Situations like that party can be both awkward and entertaining as children play together, and the grownups compete.
Yes, compete. Grownups love to compete, especially in social settings. The more adept among these social competitors are subtle in their efforts to establish territory, while others charge in like the proverbial “bull in a China cabinet.”
During this particular party, I was seated between Amanda and a younger woman with whom I was completely unfamiliar. As everyone in the room chit chatted, the majority of her conversations (yes, I was eavesdropping) contained at least one reference to her husband. “He’s a doctor you know…”
I quickly realized that this woman’s identity was very closely associated with her husband’s profession. As she spoke (ok, guilty as charged, more eavesdropping on my part), I began to feel a bit sorry for her. Her personal insecurity became increasingly apparent with each mention of her husband.
After a while I became uncomfortable being near her. The more she demonstrated her insecurities, the more she reminded me of someone near and dear to me. You guessed it, that someone is me.
I can attest to what life is like when living in someone else’s shadow. As the second of two boys, I often found myself living in the shadow of my older brother, John.
My experience playing Little League baseball is a great example of just how deep that shadow ran. John was always a gifted athlete. Not only that, but he also worked hard at honing his skills. In Little League, he played first base. His talents shined in that position.
After he had moved on, I found myself on the same team with the same coach. His name was Floyd. When I joined the team, Floyd assumed that John’s talents must be genetic. So, he positioned me at first base.
In short, I pretty much sucked as at first base, as well as at the other eight positions available. Baseball, it turned out, was not my thing. The experience taught me that trying to ride John’s wave of athletic talent would not take me very far. However, that experience didn’t stop me from jumping on his coat tails in other areas of life.
I did eventually find my groove in life. There were and are things at which I am naturally gifted. Despite these natural gifts, I still have to be on guard against hiding in someone else’s shadow.
It’s a dangerous place for me, being in someone else’s shadow. It is a place where my insecurities become apparent. A place where I begin making comparisons between myself and the person casting that shadow. It’s a place where I find myself saying something along the lines of “I know so-and-so, and they (insert a not so humble brag).
In reality, when I do that, my mind instantly goes to a place where I feel inferior. Inferior to the person with whom I’m speaking and the person I’m bragging about knowing.
In Narcotics Anonymous, there is also a danger of falling into the trap of comparing pedigrees and standing in another person’s shadow. If I’m not careful, I can easily fall into the trap of bragging about what I’ve accomplished in life. Then, catching myself, I try to negate all that boasting with a humble brag. “Oh, but you know, I just have today.”
“Ok Kent, if you just have today, why did you take this meeting hostage by spending the last 15 minutes telling us about everything you did yesterday, the day before, and so on?”
Why? I’ll tell you why. It’s because I’m basically insecure. That’s why!
By practicing humility, I can begin to find relief from those insecurities. Humility allows me to see myself more accurately. It reminds me that I am neither any better nor any worse than the person sitting next to me. Humility affords me the opportunity to see that the person next to me has both victories in life and defeats, just like me.
I used to talk a lot about the things I had before I lost it all to my addiction to drugs. In a meeting this week, it occurred to me that I don’t do that very much any more. Then I realized the reason: I love the life I have today! Finally, I feel comfortable in my own skin. I no longer feel the need to compete or compare. Through working the steps and practicing spiritual principles in all my affairs, I am finding relief.
Relief, not perfection. There are still times that I fall back into those old patterns. Times when I feel either inferior to others or superior to others. Thankfully, those times occur less frequently the longer I’m in recovery.
I am grateful for the program of NA. I am grateful for the process of recovery. Through these I am not only finding a new way to live, but I am also discovering who I am. I’m a recovering addict, who doesn’t play baseball very well, and that’s ok, because I have plenty of time to discover all the things I can do well!
Have a remarkable day!