Own Fish Tank Syndrome

Definition: The comparison of one's own fish tank to another's

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We all have those moments where we feel “less than”; less intelligent than someone else, less successful than someone else, less attractive than someone else. It’s human nature and unfortunately, ingrained in us thanks to modern media, traditional media and social media alike. We all compare ourselves to others in some way or another, and oftentimes we find ourselves comparing what makes us “us” with people that we’ve never even met, including celebrities and social media stars

I found myself doing this very thing only last night. I was comparing myself to a work colleague who, in my eyes, is beautiful. Stunning in fact. Of course this person is intelligent and kind and someone I have a great deal of respect for; I don’t want to take away from that but in this particular moment I was focused on how much “prettier” she was than me and how it seemed so effortless for her. I told my husband how I was feeling and instead of simply saying to me that I was beautiful, he paused the film we were watching, turned to me and said “Sam, you’ve got what Cory calls Own Fish Tank Syndrome”

Before I explain what “Own Fish Tank Syndrome” is I think I first need to address who Cory is and why my husband appears to be comparing me to fish tank! Cory is the owner of a tropical fish company in Seattle and he posts regular videos on his YouTube account of his own fish tanks, other people’s fish tanks, and his travels to attain the fish he then sells. My husband is somewhat of a hobbyist when it comes to fish tanks and exotic animals, hence the connection

A recent video was about how hobbyists and professionals always seem to compare their fish tanks with others and thus feel “less than” because they think their fish tank is “less than” someone else in one way or another. Maybe the fish aren’t quite as pretty and therefore, eye catching; maybe the coral or plants aren’t as healthy or vibrant looking. Ultimately, what this leads to is demotivation and the person feeling like they might as well not bother, when in reality what is more likely going on is that someone else, maybe the person being put up in this pedestal, feels exactly the same way

Essentially what my husband was saying to me was that whist my colleague probably is very pretty, it’s highly likely that they too look at someone else and feel exactly the same way I feel. Maybe they even look at me and think that I’m prettier than they are, and that I too make it look effortless

The point of the matter is we’re all pretty, beautiful, attractive (whatever your preferred choice of word is) in our own way. Just in the same way that we’re all intelligent, kind and charismatic in our own way, and that is what makes us all unique

As he pressed play on the film once more, I found myself looking at my husband in a different way and really appreciating him more than I normally do. Yes, he compared me to a fish tank but it was his way of saying that I’m beautiful in my own way and that there is no doubt someone out there comparing themselves to me

What was the lesson here? Don’t dwell on what you don’t have, we’ve been far too conditioned to think this way for too long. Focus on what you do have and what you can give, and most of all celebrate what makes you, YOU

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