So let’s talk daydreaming. There’s not a person alive who hasn’t engaged in it, and most of the time it involves simply letting the creative juices flow about what might be in life, a healthy stimulant prodding us forward. But some daydreaming involves wishing we were “the other person,” someone we know or have seen and who we assume is better in every way than we are. This kind of daydreaming, if left unchecked, can begin to have serious psychological, emotional, and behavioral effects.
Let’s call this kind of daydreaming “envious envisioning.” It is both unhealthy and unwise. In envy, we negate in ourselves what we envy in another. For example, Chris is an attractive young man, talented, intelligent, with an outgoing personality. At least that’s the way I read him. He, however, feels inferior to those around him, and finds himself envying them, wishing he were them. In order to do this, he has to first deny, negate, his own qualities in the area he envies in another. The two cannot co-exist, for an acceptance of our own gifts and strengths frees us from looking longingly at the gifts of another.
Lance Morrow, in his article “Daydreams of What You’d Rather Be,” says this: “All of our lives we are accompanied vaguely by the selves we might be. Man is the only creature that can imagine being someone else.” If we linger too long in our envying, we will end up trying to be the one we envy, missing the self we were created to be.
This leads to the third dynamic set in motion when people look at others to find out who they really are instead of themselves–self-pity. You see, when we daydream, we envision not only who we are, but at times who we are not. If the latter is obtainable as a life goal, then it can set in motion healthy dynamics. But if, for instance, our daydream is to be an entirely different person in appearance, personality, and ability, then it becomes unhealthy to the extent that we are unable to attain it. Envy sets in as we wish we were another and, unable to be that other person, we sink into self-pity. In the process of trying to be someone else, we have missed who we really are. Left untended, these dynamics can lead to severe depression and even suicide.
How can we know a good self-image, healthy self respect, and appreciation for who we are apart from comparing ourselves with others?
First, we can continue to daydream, but make a commitment in the process to envision only what we realistically believe we can become given our present understanding of our gifts, talents, and potential. Such mental activity can stimulate us, serving as an initiator of risk-taking steps that will enlarge our horizons and open new possibilities for us. The more we dream thusly, the less we will find ourselves dreaming of being someone else.
Next, we can make a commitment to ourselves to accept ourselves for who we are and find in ourselves a close friend. If we don’t enjoy who we are, being with ourselves, we cannot expect others to enjoy who we are! Do you enjoy being by yourself at times, consciously appreciating the kind of person you are? It’s an exercise worth engaging in, for it lays the foundation for the building of a healthy self-image.
Then we can decide upon some specific purposes for our lives, so that we begin to live intentionally, rather than just going from day to day without a plan.
In addition, we can take steps to enlarge our horizons seeking new friends, people from differing cultures and backgrounds, who can contribute to who we are as we contribute to who they are. We can take up a hobby or learn a new trade or language.
Finally, we can recognize that the God of the universe made us just as we are, and delights in our uniqueness and individuality. To negate this through envy of someone else He made is to not only damage our relationship with ourselves but with Him as well.