Strange Illusions

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Have you ever found yourself wishing you could be more like one of your friends, that you could have more of the points you perceive in them to be positive and beneficial? It’s strange how it seems difficult to value what we have, and how easily we slip into focusing on all our deficits, and comparing them with the other people.

Maybe we are programmed for this, since constant self improvement could perhaps be a method of making our species stronger, and therefore more likely to survive. However, this is not exactly helpful information if you are contemplating the fact that your friend is tall and willowy, and you are not, or indulging in other such dangerous comparisons.

The fact is that we all have good and bad assets. You may not be completely happy with some aspects of your existence, and feel that others have been very lucky in ways you are not, but you are just as brilliant as your friends in some other aspects. There is a certain amount of illusion involved in how people project themselves to the world in general. No one is perfect, but mostly we try to give that impression because no one wants to admit to a failing. It is good to remember that when you meet someone who seems to have it all. It is just a facade, and behind the scenes that person has just as many trials and tribulations to deal with as everyone else, they are just different ones to your own.

A strong version of this phenomenon is envy, an emotion that comes from both undervaluing your own abilities, and from imagining that someone else has had access to better and more exciting opportunities. This appears like a completely unfair quirk of fate. There is not much truth at the heart of the assumption though. Think about how you feel when someone tells you, or you get the impression, that they are envious of your life. The first reaction is probably to laugh and think to yourself ‘if only they knew’, so conversely, when someone else’s life appears to you to be easier and more privileged, realise that there is a lot more below the surface that you don’t know about.

All photos taken by Ju Underwood at Museo dell’Ara Pacis, Rome