You Make it Look So Easy: The Compare & Despair Economy

Hello from Mexico! I am en route to San Miguel de Allende for my FLOURISH retreat for women. If we aren’t already I hope you will connect on Instagram and Facebook to catch the behind the scenes beauty. (I’ve even got a photo shoot planned. I need a proper head shot for my book cover plus San Miguel begs to be photographed!)

Today’s blog post is about a tender subject for many women: the economy of comparing and despairing. I wrote this post after a recent vacation in the Carolinas and it has been “in the vault” waiting for a special day to reveal. Today is that day! As always I’d love to hear what it stirs for you. Leave a comment below about your own habit of saying “You make it look so easy” or your (surprisingly freeing) list of things that do not come easy! Read on for details on my yoga crashes and more. xxo Courtney

 

Recently I hiked down a trail in one of the largest temperate forests in rural North Carolina. At the peak of this trail we were awarded a view so expansive my 9 year old son remarked: “I don’t know why everyone talks about nature being destroyed. From here it totally overwhelms the towns which are tiny!” It was true, the lush green treetops carpeted the landscape, blissfully dwarfing the human-made structures. (Maybe there is hope for our sweet planet, yet?) My eyes and soul felt like they could relax.

On the way down I passed a retirement-age couple. While this trail was marked as “moderate” they wore serious hiking shoes and walking sticks and seemed to be wrestling with the path. As I came up behind the husband of the duo struggled through a particularly craggy section of rock, calling it an “ankle buster.” He suggested that they let me go on and I passed and continued down the trail. The woman called after me, part frustration and part admiration: “You make it look so easy!”

I paused. Wishing I had a better response I smiled tightly, thinking of my husband who worked for years as a caterer and learned the perfect response when people complimented his food: “I’m glad you like it.”

I was wanting a similar phrase: a way to acknowledge the compliment but turn it around and say, “Hey — look at what you are doing. I hope I’m out in retirement moving my body and taking on challenges. Enjoy yourself!”

This phrase “You make it look so easy” rattled around in my head for the next few days. And as I reflected on it I unearthed the trap of this complement: how often we look at people and evaluate them (and ourselves) only on those things which seem to be coming easily.

Maybe I am nimble on my feet on a hiking trail. But I definitely haven’t always been. My mother had to sign me up for dance lessons as a child because she said I was like a “little elephant” stomping around the house.

And I distinctly remember the moment in Peace Corps training when one of my fellow volunteers inspired me to really loosen my stance and showed me how to jog down steep trails, a practice I had never before tried. Two years on a volcano gave me ample time to learn and whenever I’m on a hill I feel this old muscle memory kick into place.

Even so I’m far from an elite hiker, as evidenced by the fact that I was moving quickly to catch up with my nine year old son and husband who were soundly beating me down the mountain. That is the slippery thing about comparing. There are always people who are better, which leaves us chasing something we can never catch. Even if you are killing it from someone else’s perspective, likely you still find yourself coming up short.

I’m curious how many things do we really need to excell in to have a full and meaningful life?

For me, writing is one thing which comes easy. Gardening another. Also deep conversations about new growth and the way life is surprising us with its magic and grace. And the joy of breaking a complicated idea into little lovely pieces, like on ramps to the beauty and elegance of the whole structure. So that is like four things? Sure there are a more but honestly when I start to think about all the goodness just the ones I’ve listed here bring into my days, it is starting to feel like a full life.

What comes easily for you?

What have you worked hard to cultivate to a point where it looks easy now?

And of course there are other areas of life where we don’t naturally excel. This is where we get support. Or rest in the web of our connections and let someone else catch that. For example, I have a coaching client who is an engineer in a national lab. She is literally a rocket scientist and her research makes her come alive. How easy is it for me to say, “Oh honey, I’m so glad you have that covered because it is so not my area of expertise!” Similarly accounting comes to mind (despite my dad’s hopes).

This can be a fun exercise of freedom: listing all the things you aren’t good at.

What don’t you make look easy?

Lets see: in addition to engineering and accounting for me that list includes handstands (I crashed into the wall at a recent yoga class), planning logistical details, and smalltalk of pretty much all kinds.

Thank the sweet heavens we don’t have to be good at everything. I’d love to hear what comes easy to you and what doesn’t in a comment below.
XO

Courtney
PS Do you feel a new iteration of your life beckoning and rather than looking the other way you want to say yes to these deep, soulful nudges? If you would you like my support as you move through this process I will be opening up my FLOURISH formula program for another beta coaching group in May. (This is your opportunity to get a sneak peak on the material as I put finishing touches on the book before it will be published later this year.) If you would like to learn more I have a limited number of Discovery Sessions available when I get back from Mexico and I would love to talk with you. You can view my calendar and grab your Discovery Session today. Xxo

Courtney Pinkerton, M.Div & M.PP, is a holistic life coach and the founder of Bird in Hand Coaching. She holds dual masters degrees from Harvard Divinity School and Harvard Kennedy School, is the host of the Summer of Meditation Challenge and publishes a popular blog on soulful living. Courtney teaches regularly on the Enneagram (a personality map), meditation, and mindbody practices to reduce stress as well as supporting busy women who want to unlock their greatest gifts and flourish in their personal lives. She lives in Oak Cliff, Texas with her husband Richard Amory where they try to keep up with their three children and remember to water their garden boxes. You can read about options for working with Courtney here and reach her directly at cp@courtneypinkerton.com.

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