A short story for anyone who has ever compared themselves with others and found themselves lacking!
in my hand who is the fairest in the land” Eleanor said out loud hoping against
all hope that the answer would be “Eleanor is the fairest in the land” and was
therefore very disappointed when the answer was someone in Norway she’d never
Like a lot
of people Eleanor had been delighted when a new iPhone application has been
launched. It was a comparison application but instead of comparing prices it
compared skills and attributes. Within a week she’d discovered that she didn’t
have the thinnest ankles, the glossiest hair, the whitest teeth or the most
perfect breasts. She’d also discovered that she wasn’t the best nonfiction writer,
communication trainer, motivational speaker or career coach. With every question
she asked she found out that someone else was better than her.
therefore took a huge turn for the worse and friends and family got very wary
of speaking to her. Nothing they said seemed to make any difference. In fact it
made matters worse because when they listed something they thought she excelled
in – she just asked the iPhone and it gave her the name of someone else. To her
every name was more evidence that she wasn’t good at anything even if she
didn’t always agree with the answer the phone gave. To Eleanor there was a
whole world out there better at everything than her with better skills, better
minds and certainly better bodies. Whenever she thought she might have found a
question that would give her the answer she craved she was always disappointed
– the best bathroom went to a couple in Hong Kong and even the cleanest small bedroom
window facing west (when she’d started to clutch at straws) went to a man in
Why no one
else deleted the application from her phone it’s not clear but they didn’t and
so she was left to make that decision for herself. Yet the decision didn’t come
very quickly and many tears were shed before one night she realised she didn’t
need the application any longer because she knew the truth for herself.
whilst reading a discussion on Facebook that she first wondered if she’d got it
all wrong. A friend - well more a friend
of a friend of a friend she’d met thru Facebook - mentioned in a group that
they believed it was our state of being that was important not all the constant
doing and achieving. Coming from a very competitive family Eleanor found this
hard to accept but nevertheless after weeks of being told she didn’t excel at
anything by the iPhone she had started to think she must be doing something wrong.
So she tentatively started to explore what a state of being might be about. As
first she thought this might mean meditating or yoga but realised they were
just something else for her to do. She then wondered whether a state of being was
related to what was important to her. Having realised what was important wasn’t
material possessions she started to consider her values such as honesty,
integrity and passion.
What was odd
was that when she asked about any of these values the iPhone didn’t come up
with an answer straight away. There was certainly a lag between asking the
question and getting an answer. Another strange thing was she agreed with the
answers given. Even more strange was what happened when friends asked the same
question. They got different answers. Up to now the answers for all the
questions asked had been the same whether she’d asked on her or her friends’
phones. The cleanest window really was always in Canada and the best
motivational speaker really lived in Montreal. But the person who was most
honest lived in Sydney, Machu Pichu, Rome or even London – it just depended whose
phone they asked.
rise to a discussion about honesty and that’s when the fun really started
because they couldn’t agree. Eleanor and her friends MSN’d back and forth:
Sharon: Honesty means keeping promises
made, doing what you say you are going to do and telling the truth.
Jen: I agree that is means telling the
truth Sharon but for me honesty means being true to yourself EVEN if it means
breaking promises made to others.
that honest if you break a promise?
Jen: That IS the
honesty bit – can you be true to yourself by being honest enough to say that a
promise you made is no longer something that supports who you are today.
Sharon: Wow –
that’s certainly honest.
Before the conversation got any deeper and wondering what
she’d started Eleanor interjected:
Eleanor: You know
what - I’ve just done a search on Google and most of the links seem to be about
the lack of honesty rather than honesty.
Sharon: Yes it’s
certainly easier to describe what dishonesty looks like. Just think how easy it
is for the media to wind everyone up over one example of dishonesty for a
celebrity and ignore the 100’s of examples of their honesty.
that’s interesting - does someone have honesty until they prove otherwise or do
we want them to prove they are first.
Sharon: I know I
prefer to assume people are honest first even if I get disappointed when I find
Eleanor: and how
do we identify who is the ‘most’ honest – surely that’s very difficult to
Jen: But the
iPhone gave us answers - even if they were different.
application designers must have linked our profile data to the answers our
phone gave or something. Otherwise how else did we get different answers?
Jen: You mean
they somehow knew the different criteria we’d all use to define being honest?
Sharon: Wow that
means they must have a very complex set of calculations for every value we
could possibly ask about.
Eleanor: Hang on
a minute don’t we have the same problem for all the other answers we asked. How
do we really define glossiness of hair, the most perfect breasts and even best
consultant or trainer? Even if the iPhone application designers have determined
a definitive answer isn’t the answer still in the eye of the beholder? Let me just tweet something – I’ll be back.
is the best trainer in the world” please RT
Eleanor’s tweet was retweeted
and over the next few minutes she got many replies. Whilst some did give the
same answer many were unique even if there were a few that she didn’t quite get
or understand and wondered if people were pulling her leg e.g. @Pinkies Pinky & Perky or @TVcritic EastEnders. She shared all the
replies with Sharon and Eleanor.
Jen: It seems
obvious now but people seem to be replying based on their experience and own
Eleanor: In which
case I’m not sure I want to explore Pinkies’ experiences nor preferences :-)
Sharon: Yes of
course - to understand an answer we really needed to understand what the person
values in a trainer.
makes sense – some may like someone who is enthusiastic and a great communicator.
Jen: I know my
dad would want to know what qualifications they’ve got and their level of
expertise on the subject.
would consider how inspiring or authentic they are.
Eleanor: But even
if we agree on the criteria I wonder how easy is it to be the best inspiring
trainer for something.
Sharon: What do
the cost to the person associated with being the greatest inspirational trainer
on a subject. How many books would they need to read, how much practicing would
they need to do?
Sharon: I see
what you mean. I suppose it would impact on other areas of their life too – how
much time will they have to relax, laugh or spend time with those who are
important to them.
that’s what makes them the best?
Jen: I just think
the pressure of trying to keep on being the best would be HUGE.
Sharon: I suppose
even the person with glossiest hair would have to spend a lot of time in front
of a mirror.
Jen: and hours agonising
over what shampoo to use.
Eleanor: or even
sleep in a hair net.
Jen: :-) and refuse to have sex in case it damaged their hair!!
Eleanor: As ever the
one to lower the tone Jen - thanks!
about the effort to be the best trainer AND having the glossiest hair
Jen: Best trainer
with glossiest hair might be an option.
Sharon: I’m not
sure I want to be the best at anything now – perhaps it’s easier to aim to have
glossy hair or to just be a good trainer. At least then I can have a life too.
Jen: or be a
GREAT trainer Sharon?
Eleanor: Great or
good - yes not to be the best trainer or have the glossiest hair.
Jen: I’m so glad
we’ve got that sorted – have you seen the time - I’m off to watch Glee – night
Sharon: I forgot
that was on – it starts in five minutes so that’s me off too – night
you two. See you at work tomorrow.
before she went to bed Eleanor realised she’d downloaded the iPhone application
because she wanted to be told she was the best at something. Whilst she no
longer cared if she had the glossiest hair nor the cleanest small bedroom
window facing west she realised she had just one last question:
in my hand who is the best at being me?” she typed.
read the iPhone.
and realised that was all she needed to be and then pressed DELETE and the
application was finally deleted from her iPhone never to return.