Have you ever felt like everyone around you is achieving the things that you wish you could or has the things you wish you had? Have you ever noticed that the longer you concentrate on those things, the bigger they become, the more overwhelmed you feel, or the more unhappy you are with the things you have been blessed with?
“Comparison is the thief of joy. “
My mom said this to me once, when I was a young teenager. I was dramatically listing the reasons why one of my friends was so much luckier than I was. I was crying and sure I’d never achieve the level of cool- in my entire life- she had already reached at 13 or 14. I don’t remember what it was that had caused this grand revelation of my teenage angst, but I do remember those words.
I know that I didn’t actually truly appreciate them until I was a more than few years older and was again faced with the easily set trap of comparing myself to someone else. This time I clearly remember the details.
I was trying to balance a new baby, a husband who traveled for work, and parents who had just moved away. I had broken my leg, requiring surgery in my 8th month of pregnancy. Our sweet baby had made her appearance via emergency C Section after the discovery that the fall that had broken my leg also caused a placenta abruption, that went undiagnosed until labor. After a surgery to correct that broken leg, a major blood loss during labor, and that emergency c-section- I was worn out, exhausted really, but I thought I was doing a great job of the new mom/healing up/learning the ropes balancing act. I took it for granted that everyone else did too, until a newly made friend commented about how much faster she’d ‘gotten back together’ after the birth of her kids. As I looked across her living room, I found myself mentally listing all the things she had ‘together’ that I didn’t.
My normally clear skin was broken out- hers was glowing.
My weight was not ‘just falling off with nursing’ the way everyone said it would- she was sitting comfortably, and CUTELY in yoga pants.
My husband was gone earning the money for our little family to live and would likely be out of town for another few days – her husband was coming home in less than an hour.
My mom had just moved 5 hours away- I’d waved to hers leaving her house as I pulled in.
I felt my shoulders sag under the weight that I had, until that very moment, been carrying so well. The longer I compared myself in that light, the easier it was to find my flaws and her obviously superior life skills. My next several days were spent wondering how I could ‘FIX’ all the things that I now didn’t measure up in.
When he got home, my husband noticed a difference in my countenance.
My joy was stolen…..
‘What’s wrong?’ He had asked that night as he bounced our baby to their favorite Lynyrd Skynyrd tune. ‘You don’t seem like you’re you’
‘I am not a good mom, or wife, or anything really’ I had cried. I tried explaining the ways I was failing at as he protested loudly that I was crazy! He didn’t see my glaring shortfalls- but he was out of town too much ,I told myself. I was sure they were there and that everyone else saw them too.
In comparison, I just didn’t measure up. Somewhere in the back of my mind, that feeling settled in, to rear it’s head at any opportunity as I adjusted to my new life in this role that I’d wanted for as long as I can remember…..
Several months later sitting with another friend, she sighed heavily and said that I made her feel like she was doing so many things wrong as a mom.
I was nursing, she was not;
I took all the monthly development photos, she always forgot until a week later- if she remembered at all;
I was ‘handling baby hormones’ so much better than she was……
By comparison, she had said, with a heavy tone in her voice, she ‘just didn’t measure up’.
As I listened to her list of her imagined faults, tears began to stream down my face and the words my mom said so many years before, rang in my ears.
I took her hands and confessed all the things I felt I was falling short myself. As we both let tears fall, a tremendous weight was lifted at the realization that we ALL slide down this slippery slope, whether there’s any truth to the slide or not!
In the years since that conversation, I wish I could say, I hadn’t ridden that slippery hillside again. But, unfortunately, comparison is especially prevalent in mom life. We all seem to judge our hardest days and biggest mistakes against the very best days of another ‘better’ mom in our village.
Take for example, when our kid was the one melting down in the grocery store! You know what I’m talking about here- the cold sweat that begins because we are SURE no other mom in the store has ever heard such an unholy sound being emitted from her own perfect cherubs! We try desperately to stop the tantrum, we promise candy….smile sheepishly at the eyes we feel JUDGING our inadequate skills at raising this little human. In those screech filled moments, we know that compared to those moms walking by with their angelic smiling children, we can’t compare! The truth is WE HAVE ALL BEEN THERE and if we haven’t yet, WE WILL BE ONE DAY!!! If we are honest, we all know that, yet in the momens where that knowledge counts- we become sure that our kids are the only ones to ever disrupt the peace of isle 3.
So whether in momlife, work, Friends, or business, why do we give comparison so much power in our lives?
Of course it’s easy to see the good in the lives of those around us, the new cars, the beautiful homes, the well managed weight, the perfectly behaved children and while it’s the hallmark of a good friend to appreciate and celebrate the accomplishments and earnings of those we love and it’s great to aspire for and set goals for the things that we see others achieve, it’s not ok to allow those things to become a measure of our worth. Or the standard of our success.
We don’t see the 4am workouts of the mom in front of us who is rocking those lularoes, we miss the late nights at the office that earned the new car or house or vacation, we don’t see the lost sleep creating the successful business or praying that enough money to just make the bills comes through, after a tough month , and we definitely miss the normal ‘childhooding’ of those perfectly behaved kids…..
When we use the comparison of the success of others to our ‘failures’ as our measuring stick, we forget the struggles, the work, the disappointment, and the discouragements that they’ve faced in the process of getting where we want to be. Of course we don’t ‘measure up’ in that light! There is no way to.
We can’t compare our struggles against those successes already earned. When we do, it’s no wonder, our joy is stolen.
The next time you’re tempted to compare what you’ve yet to attain to the things someone else has ….CELEBRATE for them instead. Celebrate that their success is a building block for your own. Celebrate how far you’ve come and how much you’ve already accomplished. Celebrate their talents and yours….it is likely they look at something in your life as one of their goals. Instead of allowing comparison to steal your joy- allow the celebration of all your accomplishments and blessings to build it!! We are all working toward a goal or hope in life and it can be hard enough to get where we are going. Don’t let anything dull the joy of your journey! 💖
Ps- The next time your kid is freaking out in HEB, and you catch the eye of another mom looking your way, know that we are not judging you!! We are remembering the best fits our kids threw and celebrating what a good job you’re doing!!
Be joyful my friend! You’ve got this!