So I’ve had a little (ok, it’s became large) comparison problem lately. And it’s ugly, I don’t like it, but I’m owning it. I’ve always said the secret to contentment is not to compare yourself to others, it’s being thankful for what you have . Sometimes it’s easier to give the advice than to live it though, isn’t it?
It started not long ago when I was in Target shopping for laundry detergent with the Fab 5 and we came across an older woman in the aisle. At the time, the boys were running to the end of the aisle, giggling and waiting for me to come around the corner before they’d take off to the next aisle. The girls were staying by me, keeping themselves occupied. The woman instantly gave me “that look,” you know, the one where I should be ashamed of my parenting because my children are running wild in the store and were laughing, making noise, and what kind of mom am I anyway? I also heard her mutter, “If those were my kids…” shaking her head as she walked away.
I don’t know why “the look” and her nasty little remark bothered me because before that I was happy that one, they weren’t fighting and two, they were obviously safe because I could hear them giggling and waiting for me. I was actually quite pleased with the shopping trip. No major events had happened, no one had asked to go potty four times, and we were getting some of the things on my list crossed off. Technically, it had been a pretty good shopping trip! After the look though, I felt shamed and made the boys shop next to me which wasn’t fun, fighting happened, I got crabby and the rest of the shopping trip was awful.
My next comparison problem came a few days later when I was reading one of my favorite blogs. The blogger was writing about how she makes time for her friends, that she has a lot of friends, how she prays for them, and gets together once a week, etc….you get the picture.
At first, I enjoyed the post and then the comparing and the berating inside me began.
“What is wrong with you that you don’t have that many close friends?” “Are you unlikable?” “You never do things like that.” “You are so not worthy of great friends.” “Good friends have time for their friends and you can’t even get together with the few you have that often!”
Throughout my entire life, I have wanted to be a mom. I have always loved kids. I babysat a lot when I was younger. I always enjoyed playing with my younger cousins and loved the babies (both of my parents have large families, so there were many cousins to play with and take care of ).
I didn’t ever plan on having 5 children with 4 of them being under 4 years old and to be very honest, during that season of life I was mostly overwhelmed (but am so grateful for my wonderful family…weren’t they adorable)? In some ways I still am, we have a large family and my family comes first. I love my friends and most of them shake their head at our crazy lives but I hope they understand that this toddler/preschool season is also coming to an end and it won’t be long before I have time to visit and get together once again while the kids are all at school. For the first time in many years, I can almost fully engage in a conversation without having to go chase a child that might be wandering off or getting into something they shouldn’t be or isn’t safe. My distance from my friends hasn’t been because I wanted distance, I’ve missed them, I’ve yearned for more friends and time with them, but it wasn’t the right season.
The latest comparison has been about my weight. After having the last baby (and turning 30) somewhere my metabolism disappeared. I lost all of the baby weight after she was born but after I quit nursing, I gained quite a bit back. As any woman knows, summer is a brutal time for comparing our bodies to others whether it’s at the pool, lake, shopping, or ball games and I’m embarrassed to say that it has been happening to me!
It’s horrible to compare ourselves over body image! Every woman’s body is her own and she is beautiful, not just for what’s on the outside but what is on the inside as well. But the inside doesn’t seem to do justice when the awful comparison begins.
I’m owning up to my weight issue. One of my friends and I are going to begin Weight Watchers online together and give each other encouragement. (If anyone would like a check in day on the blog or Facebook to encourage motivation, I’d be happy to do it.) My goal with Weight Watcher’s (I’ve done it before successfully after having the twins) is to not only fit into my clothing better but to gain some energy back. Self-care is so important and we all should be encouraging one another instead of berating one another whether it’s out loud or with our thoughts.
I’m not telling you about my comparison issues to get sympathy or a pat on the back. I’m telling you about my comparison problems because it seems that at times all of us struggle with comparison. Whether it’s our parenting skills, weight, lack or abundance of friends, whether we are as involved in a project as someone else, our marriages, whether we work at home, stay at home with our kids, or outside the home, how much money we have, or even what we eat when we get together with a friend for lunch comparison happens, and it steals our happiness.
Enough! It’s time to stop this horrible game! Life is hard enough. We need to stop judging each other and ourselves. Give grace not only to ourselves but to others! When someone says something negative, come back with a positive statement. If we want to teach our kids to stop bullying, we need to be the one to lead the way, whether it’s bullying ourselves or making the comments to others. It’s a hard fight but I think it’s a habit that we can teach ourselves and our kids, and I think we will all be happier people because of it!
One tip that has helped me in the past with this problem is to pull out my gratitude journal and when I’m feeling blue, write down a few things I’m grateful for. It helps focus on what’s important and makes me feel better.
I challenge you this week to stop comparing in one area of your life. If you think you don’t have a comparison problem, your challenge is every time you hear someone say a negative comment to come up with something positive to say back to them. You won’t always know how you affected someone’s day, but isn’t it exciting to know that you may help them feel better about themselves instead of worse? Do you agree that comparison steals our happiness?