The male baboon divides other males into two groups – those who rank higher than he does and those who rank lower than he does. What does this mean? That humans aren’t the only animals stuck on status. Even if it is abstract and unrelated to us, we crave knowing other people’s ranking, and we endlessly keep track who’s more or less important. Be real, how many of you check who “likes” a photo or a status on Facebook and/or Instagram? Status is so meaningful to us that when we don’t know someone or something’s position in the universe, we get anxious and uncomfortable. The Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov once said, “I hate arriving in a new town. I have no idea who I tip my hat to and who I can kick into the gutter.”
Last week, I wrote about the what I called “fast sewing.” Briefly put, if fast fashion is an urge to keep up with the newest trends, designers and retailers, which is ever-accelerating, then fast sewing is an urge to keep up with the newest fabrics, sewing patterns and bloggers, which has also increased its speed. I received a lot of thoughtful responses to what I wrote, and a few sparked a new conversation. So, if you don’t mind, I’d like to go off on another tangent.
In many replies, people confessed that the reason they became a “fast sewer” was because they felt pressured to make what everyone else was making. Going back to my first analogy, they evaluated the current sewing scene and realized that everyone ranked above them, and they were at the bottom. I have fallen victim to this too. After seeing Sophie and Lizzy’s Gabriola skirt, I changed my sewing plans, which I rarely do, and made my own.
I’m going to speak candidly – I think status is a good thing. Comparing oneself to others, another good thing. Seeing someone else succeed while you don’t, also a good thing. Jealousy, yep, that can be a good thing too. I wish motivation was solely self-inflicted, but in my experience, it has come from seeing what others have and I don’t, and then pushing myself to achieve the same.
You may not agree with me at this point.
In one of the best articles I’ve read in the Wall Street Journal lately, which was actually a commencement speech, Admiral William H. McRaven said to the senior class at the University of Texas at Austin:
“During SEAL training the students are broken down into boat crews. Each crew is seven students—three on each side of a small rubber boat and one coxswain to help guide the dingy. Every day, your boat crew forms up on the beach and is instructed to get through the surfzone and paddle several miles down the coast.
In the winter, the surf off San Diego can get to be 8 to 10 feet high and it is exceedingly difficult to paddle through the plunging surf unless everyone digs in. Every paddle must be synchronized to the stroke count of the coxswain. Everyone must exert equal effort or the boat will turn against the wave and be unceremoniously tossed back on the beach.
For the boat to make it to its destination, everyone must paddle.
You can’t change the world alone—you will need some help—and to truly get from your starting point to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the goodwill of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide them.
If you want to change the world, find someone to help you paddle.”
We’re all in the same boat, seamstresses and seamsters, paddling to arrive at our destination, wherever that may be. If we act alone, not considering what our teammates are doing, our boat wouldn’t make it. It would capsize and we would drown. We need each other, and we need to look at what the other is doing, because that pushes us to do our own part. Seeing Tilly publish a book, I want to do the same, and that’s what is keeping me going as I search for publishers. Also, watching Heather release The Bombshell and then The Nettie is inspiring me to get the ball rolling on a Madalynne line.
My point? Comparison isn’t always a bad thing. We’re all in competition with each other, but it’s a healthy competition. There will be no winner in this game, we’re all just out to have fun.