“The grass is always greener on the other side.” We’ve all heard that one. The intent of this aphorism is to analogize comparing our own circumstances to those of others. I think that it’s a bit oversimplified and lacking some context, which means it can be easily misinterpreted (which is true of most aphorisms). I have known several people to use it literally, to express that it is actually greener elsewhere. They say that if they had what someone else had, their grass would also be green.
The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.Steve Furtick
For this reason, I much prefer the above quote to illustrate comparison. We see what others show us. We don’t see the effort or the setbacks that went into making that grass green. We do see our own effort and setbacks, and the setbacks are the things we seem to notice more. Thus, we often feel like others have it so much easier than do we, or that they must have been born with some gift that we don’t possess. It may or may not be true, but it does us no good to compare in that way. We each have our own paths to walk and our own goals to meet. We also each have our own gifts. Our journey shouldn’t be the same as anyone else’s.
The grass is greener where you water it.Neil Barringham
Recently, I’ve seen the above quote popping up everywhere. It’s true, but also lacking context. In the context of putting in the effort to achieve your own dreams and success, yes, it will be greener where you water it. However, there are other factors that go into this.
I’m going to beat a metaphor to death here, but bear with me. All things being equal, if you water your grass, it will be green and healthy. What if you haven’t changed the amount of water you give it and it starts dying? Does that mean that you aren’t effectively watering your grass? Not necessarily. Maybe your grass has a fungal disease or the soil is lacking the proper nutrients. Or, perhaps your neighbor is spraying toxins on it, inadvertently or purposefully.
I worked in a toxic work environment for years. I was told by my human resources manager that I was the problem, that nobody wanted to be around me, that all of my co-workers hated me. I believed her for a long time. I isolated myself from everyone at work, to try to protect them from my toxicity. Then, I started noticing that they would seek me out. Nearly all of them at some point or another would come looking for me to ask my opinion about something or just to talk to me because they missed me. I started to realize that I wasn’t the problem. So, if there wasn’t anything wrong with me (no fungal disease), then what was the problem?
Maybe the soil was the problem. Maybe I wasn’t being nourished in the ways that I needed. I couldn’t change the naturally occurring nutrients in this environment. I could only change to a different environment or add nutrients to this one somehow. I had previously loved that job and didn’t want to leave, so I sought to add nutrients. I began vibrational sound therapy. It helped, but it wasn’t enough.
As time went on, I learned that one co-worker was actively lying about me to the human resources person. She was spraying toxins. I also learned that the human resources person had told me “all of your co-workers hate you” in an effort to protect the identity of the one person who did. Which is a lesson in how what you say can have a lasting effect on others, if ever I saw it. But, I digress.
I couldn’t do anything about what my neighbor was doing or whether or not she moved on. Furthermore, I couldn’t combat the toxins. All I could do was remove myself from that environment. That’s why I think the quote below is more appropriate. It may be that you need to water your grass, but it may not be.
I had come to a fork in the road. Do I stay, having a pretty good idea of what’s to come, or do I choose the unknown path? I left that job and chose the unknown path. Honestly, I’ve never been happier! Had I stopped to compare my circumstances with the circumstances of others at my workplace or others in my profession, I might still have been there, my spirit slowly dying, wondering why they have it so much better. Instead, I looked at why my spirit was dying and took steps to correct that. I wouldn’t say I’m successful, but I’m definitely on the path to get there, having made the correct choice at the fork in the road. That’s not to say I wouldn’t have arrived at the same destination eventually, but who knows how much longer it would have taken.
One of my traits is that I question everything. I always want to know how something works or why it is the way that it is. This has really served me in this instance because it allowed me to really examine the situation. So many of life’s questions can be answered by asking why something is and looking inward.