It’s Not All Sunshine and Roses: Comparison, Joy, and Things I’m Afraid to Tell You

TAPIF acceptances and lecteur recruitment are in full force. I know this because I have received no less than a dozen emails, blog comments, and Facebook messages over the span of the last few weeks. I love getting emails from readers– it gives me the encouragement to keep writing, to keep updating resources for non-EU expats in France, and to keep documenting my travels. It gives me the motivation to seriously consider self-hosting, or expanding my audience, or breaking into the “blogging business” instead of just blogging as a hobby.

Sometimes, I get messages from people stating things along the lines of, “Thank you for being a role model,” or, “You are such an amazing example,” or, “You really have your shit together,” or “You’re living a dream life.” I started this blog because I wanted to help people– I came from a university and a lifestyle and a region in the United States where traveling and teaching abroad are not really seen as relevant, possible, or important. I wanted to show people that it was possible, and help people find answers to their questions; I wanted to give others someone to whom they could relate. I feel in a way, this blog has done that. But yet, even still, when I receive emails with words such as those, I can’t help but to feel both equally flattered and conflicted– Do I really have my shit together? Am I really living a dream life? Am I really deserving of the title, “role model?”

In many, many ways, I am living my own dream life. I set a goal, found a way to come back to France and then found a way to stay. I travel around Europe, have 8 weeks of paid vacation, and am using my degree to do meaningful work that I love. I have a great group of open, diverse, accepting friends living on all corners of the globe. I am healthy, and have a body that works. Really, I love this life, I really do.

But sometimes I still feel like a fraud. Even when I feel like I do have it all, I still find myself overcome with anxiety, sadness, envy or even jealousy.

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Comparison is the thief of joy. It’s something I say to myself over and over again, especially when I can’t quite shake off the feeling of inadequacy.

  • It’s the feeling of not being good enough, in regards to my intelligence, my body and my weight and shape, my attractiveness, my wardrobe, my gizmos and gadgets, my career, my blog.
  • It’s the fear of not being a good friend, a reliable colleague, an inspiring teacher, or the best sister or daughter– not being the person who is there to listen, engage, and lend a shoulder to cry on.
  • It’s the fear of feeling like I’m always letting people down, not being able to do it all, and being unable to own my decisions.
  • It’s the yearning feeling when you witness another blossoming relationship or engagement: sincerely wishing them the best but equally hoping that one day I’ll have that chance, too
  • It’s looking at my empty bank account and living pay check to pay check while my friends at home are buying houses, filling them with nice furniture, and contributing regularly to their pensions and 401K’s.
  • It’s just having no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going or who you’re going with.

There are some days that are worse than others. I’ve talked about the blurred lines of writing for strangers on the internet– only presenting the best parts of my life and the best version of myself. But, as my 7-month stint in France has become a 3-year affair, and I’ve gained more followers, I’ve tried to keep my writing, my experiences, more real and relatable. I guess, above all, I’ve learned that insecurities follow you wherever you go.

So, when I feel myself become the victim of FOMO, or of comparison, I try to step back, and put myself back in the now, and again, find joy, and remember the best parts of life, because it’s in the moments of joy that the bundles of inadequacy float away.  You don’t need to join a fancy gym or hire a personal trainer in order to prepare for a marathon– you just need to lace up your shoes and go outside.

Bisous,

Dana

6 thoughts on “It’s Not All Sunshine and Roses: Comparison, Joy, and Things I’m Afraid to Tell You

  1. Dana,

    This is a very touching post. I know exactly what you desscribe in your post; especially when you mention feelings of inadequacy that come with the job. I am coming towards the end of my year as an ESL/EFL teacher in Morocco, and there have been moments when I have doubted myself, my qualifications, and much more. Feelings of inadequacy follow us everywhere, you’re certainly right about that. I went home this winter for a short time and while I was there I was restless and I felt like being back in my professional environment and in the place where I had made my temporary home. I also experienced moments of bitter reflection while at home- these were at their worst when I recalled things that I could have done differently in the classroom,, for example- and this sometimes motivated me to hone my skills and other times really got me down.

    ESL/EFL teaching is not as easy as it is sometimes presented, and there is a lot of things that happen inside as well as outside of the classroom that tremendously influence teachers’ professional directions and future. Something that I find very useul is exactly what you suggest; I often make a short escapade and lace my shoes up and just walk, run, jog, or hike! It’s amazing how much this helps! Another thing that really helps is when I think about all of the lives that I have been touched by and the lives that in some ways I have influenced for the better. We’re not changing the world on a grand scale, but we do something that is very special!

    All the best,
    Israel

  2. I know exactly what you mean! I loved my two years in France, but it was also hard at times. My job the first year was so stressful that I had trouble eating. The second year, my budget was so tight that if I wanted to travel during school breaks, I had to live off the cheapest store brand food. Let’s not start on the amount of heartbreak I suffered abroad.

    But I wouldn’t trade those two years for anything. They helped me become the woman I am today.

  3. Dana,
    You may have come from a part of the world that isn’t very worldly, but two of the most adventurous people I know not only went to the same university, but majored in the same thing! Education!

    You consistently impress me with your actions and words. You live a conscious life. That is to say, you think about life, what it means, how you can improve yourself. You are honest about what you have, but more importantly, you are honest about the things you still strive to achieve. There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve yourself, but you should give yourself kudos for the things that you’ve done right. It is ok to rejoice in a job well-done. Should you settle for just one thing? Of course not. But if you only think about what you still haven’t done, you’ll lose the motivation and self-confidence that got you to where you are now. You are an amazing woman. Très bien fait, mon amie!

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