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"Living an Authentic Life & Escaping the Comparison Trap"

Updated: May 4, 2021

by Fifi Mondello, Founding Member, The Brilliant Foundation

Theodore Roosevelt famously said - “Comparison is the thief of joy". And yet, comparison seems to be the basis upon which modern life is built. Social media bombards us with images of how our lives “should” be – how we should look, what we should wear, what car we should drive and what handbag we should be carrying. And yet these seductive glimpses into the life we could have – the life that is waiting at the end of a checkout (real or virtual) – leave us feeling empty, unfulfilled and with a sense of having failed. We constantly compare ourselves with others, who invariably seem to be living better, more exciting and more successful lives than we are.

This pervasive sense of dissatisfaction has been highlighted by the current state of the world, but has the global pandemic been the wake-up call that it should have been?

It seems to me that we have lost sight of what is authentic and what is truly important and have instead bought into the lie that the more stuff (and status) we have, the happier we’ll be.

It was this realisation that 13 years ago led me to the decision to walk away from a promising career as a corporate lawyer and instead listen to the truth that was in my heart.

After graduating as Valedictorian of my year and with First Class Honours in Law, I strolled straight into a job in a large national law firm. I was naïve and idealistic and had no idea of what lay ahead of me. I worked relentlessly hard – the days and nights were long, working weekends was par for the course and at first, I just accepted the terms of the job and knuckled down and did what was apparently necessary. I had no time for family, friends or pleasure.

After eight years, the nature of the profession took its toll. By that stage, I had been promoted to Senior Associate (the level below Partner) and was considered to be on the partnership track. I was good at my job, but I hated it. A naturally optimistic, animated and happy person, I had become angry, depressed and despondent. The astronomical stress levels resulted in insomnia and anxiety and I was constantly in tears. The thing that struck me the most was that nobody in the Institution seemed to care – as long as the work was being done and hours were being billed, that was all that mattered.

I started to see the moral vacuum for what it was and was scared that I was becoming a part of it. I realised I wasn’t living an authentic life and that all the money in the world wasn’t worth what I was enduring. Ultimately, it took me several years to finally make the decision to walk away and stop denying who I really was.

Fundamentally and elementally, I have an artistic soul. I am a Creator. My life has been steeped in music, theatre and dance. I have been on the stage since I was a small child and performing – particularly singing - has always been my great love and a warm and reassuring constant throughout my life (while studying Law, I also completed an Arts degree with a major in Theatre Studies). I started dance lessons when I was 3, piano when I was 5, speech and drama lessons at 8, formal singing lessons as a teen. I have written volumes of poetry, essays and songs. I always wanted to be a singer and performer in general, but I never thought it was a realistic dream.

Somewhere along the line I was convinced, partly by myself, that I should pursue the life that was “expected” of someone like me – someone with my grades, intelligence and aptitude for learning. A life that would be financially lucrative and with a status that was befitting of someone with my abilities, and which certainly made me a Poster Girl for children of immigrants (my parents were both born in Sicily, but that’s another story).

Over the past 13 years, I have learnt a lot of very valuable lessons. I took the leap off the treadmill and followed the road less travelled and am now living a simpler, more honest, authentic and happy life. I feel extremely grateful and privileged to be able to live my passion. Every time I am booked for a gig, every time I get up on that stage, every time I get to perform a show I’ve written, or somebody casts me in a show they’ve written, every time I sing to a warm, appreciative audience, every single time I get to do what I love – I say thank you.

There is a certain tendency to devalue Art, to say that Art is not work. This is a stunning failure to understand and recognise the value of Art in our society. A society without Art is culturally, spiritually and emotionally bereft. Art enriches our existence, helps us make sense of this thing we call life and has the power to change our world for the better.