I’ve been having this conversation in my head for a while. It seems like we all compare ourselves to others–or others to ourselves–more often than we might say out loud. At least, I’ll say that’s true for me. The things I compare are not always the normal things…I’m not much for fancy cars or houses. Simple is fine with me. But I do compare. Even when I don’t mean to. Even when I don’t want to.
I see friends post snapshots of their lives on Facebook. Trips to exotic places or delicious food from high-class restaurants, and suddenly have a pang of discontent with my little life. I see moms post pictures of their summer activities and think they must be doing something engaging, exciting, and fun with their kids every single day of the summer, while I wonder if my kids will someday tell stories of long days of never-ending summer boredom at our house. I might run into an acquaintance at Costco who has a toddler with a cute outfit on, and a darling first haircut, while my children hang off of all sides of the cart with mis-matched clothes and unbrushed hair and wish I had found the gumption to get us a little more together before venturing out. I see the happy, successful, picture-perfect moments and think that perfection must surely extend into every area of their lives, while over here, I’m a mess, tired to the bone, going nowhere except the grocery store, and feeling like there is rarely a time I measure up.
There is a well known quote by Theodore Roosevelt…”Comparison is the thief of joy.” It pops up in my life in different places. It’s a great quote, and I do think it’s true. But thinking a little deeper, I think comparison steals more from us than only joy (which is a travesty all by itself).
What are the other things you lose when you compare?
Confidence. You can be doing the best that you can with what you’ve got for that day (here, here all ye moms on 2 hours of sleep), and valiantly so, but when you come up against that comparison thing, you lose all steam and crumble in defeat and self-pity, starting to believe that you cannot do what you were clearly already doing. Awesomely serving your family.
Courage. It takes a lot of guts to tackle parenthood. Or workplaces. Or dreams. And if you waste a minute comparing your journey to someone else’s to your own detriment, your courage slinks away and it can be hard to get it back.
Opportunities. Seriously. When you’re looking through the ‘noculars’ (as my kids call them), at your neighbors yard, all these opportunities can be whizzing by your face and you can’t see them. Opportunities to grow, to serve someone else, to do important, meaningful, or fulfilling things. And the problem is, you won’t even know what you’ve missed most of the time.
Friendships. Be honest, how many times have you seen someone who looks happy and amazing, and you think to yourself, “She’s way too cool. She would never want to be my friend.” Yeah, I’ve thought that. And I still feel that way sometimes. But I’ve learned that sometimes (or most times) there’s so much more to a person than what you see on the outside, whether they are happy and outgoing or more melancholy and shy. And some of my dearest and most meaningful friendships are with women who I may have missed if I was trying to match us up side-by-side, looking for commonalities and comparing what little I actually knew about them.
I’m sure there are more things we lose out on when we compare. But maybe these few will get you thinking about how to approach those comparing thoughts a little differently. Instead of comparing, try connecting. Reach out and make an unexpected friend. Instead of feeling ashamed about your not-togetherness, laugh about it, and know that every mom out there has not-together moments. Lots of them. Instead of wishing you had things that you don’t, take steps toward doing things that bring you joy and bring joy to others. And when you look in the mirror, hear God say to you, “You are beautiful just the way you are.”