August 8, 2022

You don’t want the highest utility bill in the neighborhood, do you?


Worthiness is, and will always be, an inside job.

Each person is responsible for their own positive feelings of enoughness. We are the ones who choose to allow others to make us feel inadequate. It’s not their fault we doubt ourselves. People aren’t betraying us, only our inner voice is.

Eleanor Roosevelt, the longest serving first lady of our nation, is famous for the quotation:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Now, whether or not she actually said those exact words has long been debated. The adage had bounced around various interviews with national magazines back in the thirties and forties before it became a mainstream maxim.

But the principle behind the idea is still timeless.

One area where this experience of unworthiness often plays out is through the metric of energy. We notice that our physical, mental and psychological bandwidth can’t cope with as many components as someone else’s can.

Wow, look how early she’s waking up each day. That woman works two jobs and still has time for hobbies and parenting and date night. How is that humanly possible? Who the hell has that level of executive functioning? Give me some of whatever she’s smoking.

That’s when we start comparing. Getting caught up in a relentless competition about whose temperament is stronger. Our inner voice scandalizes us by saying what we’re already doing is not enough.

It’s like one of those home energy reports that municipal utility companies offer. Residents can type in their address and rank their home energy usage against your neighbors. One website I found framed it like this:

Compare your house’s metered energy use based on approximate square footage according to county records and national averages. And at no additional charge, get a ten page report to details your usage along with recommendations for lowering monthly bills and reducing annual carbon emissions.

Now, if you think about it from a marketing standpoint, the program is brilliant.

First, the utility companies build a statistical algorithm that takes into account the effects of local weather, home size, and number of occupants on your home’s energy use.

Next, they leverage the data to gamify energy efficiency, playing into our most competitive and comparative nature.

Then, they deliver personalized content that empowers customers with the betterment of our planet’s sustainability.

And finally, they tap into the power of social pressure, status and shame to essentially ask homeowners, you don’t really want to have the highest utility bill in the neighborhood, do you?

Man, standing ovation for that marketing department.

However, while the business implications of home energy reports is quite admirable, there’s a psychological parallel that’s quite toxic, ironically enough.

Because the utility companies are essentially training people to feel less than. To make themselves feel inadequate.

When truth is, one house can’t be accurately compared to another any more than one body or one mind can be compared to another.

It’s apples and avocados.

My house might have the exact same square footage as the neighbor’s house, but because we have to do home hospice for my grandmother who is dying of cancer, we have to use twice the amount of energy each month.

That’s not something to be ashamed of or judged for. It’s just reality.

Each human being rests at the nexus of a vast number of interwoven causes and conditions that influence their behavior. There are so many lifestyle differences, personality nuances and temperament variations, that to judge one person’s energy capacity against a neighbor’s is foolish and futile.

What’s more, it’s exhausting. Constantly judging ourselves for not having enough energy ironically takes an incredible amount of energy away from more useful endeavors.

It’s like my marriage therapist friend once told me:

Your inner voice is the third person in your relationship. It’s being a terrible friend to you, so don’t listen to it when it tries to make you feel inadequate.

Don’t compare your capacity to those closest to you, or anyone for that matter. Focusing on our inadequacies separates and cuts us off from others.

Instead, remove the focus on how much you think you should be doing and trust that you’re enough.

Acknowledge and respect the limits of your own unique bandwidth. And support yourself by announcing that you’re doing the best you can.

Do you really care if your utility bill is the highest in the neighborhood?