I attended my first yoga class years ago. It was at 4 pm–and just in time to change how I think about myself and view others. Especially other mothers.
The instructor threw out a random cue. She said, “Do not compare yourself to your neighbor. Let go of competition.” As she said this, I was specifically looking at a girl in the front row who could easily touch her toes in a seated forward fold. And I wasn’t just looking. I was trying to catch up to her; I was feeling like I was somehow less because I had tight hamstrings and she didn’t. I was losing an unseen race.
I was crazy.
Sounds silly, right? But think about it: do you walk into a gym and size up the women and compare your waist size, your rear view and your treadmill speed? Something inside you probably feels smaller or lesser as you make these comparisons. Or, maybe you get excited when the skinny mom gets swollen during her pregnancy or your girlfriend orders a naughty dessert and might gain weight. We do it, as a lot as mothers, by comparing our children: “What? He walked at ten months? What’s wrong with my child?!” Or maybe we’re inwardly relieved when we see someone’s perfectly behaved child finally have a public meltdown. It makes us feel better.
Competition in the gym or school doesn’t usually stay there. Mental comparisons are probably running dialogs many of us have that extend to women in our families, at work and at church, and even to strangers in the store, making them our enemies. Comparison is rooted in competition, and competition is rooted in fear, the fear that we are not good enough. Fear that if someone is thinner, faster, younger, richer, or can touch their toes in yoga, they are better than us. They win. When they win, we lose. Fear makes the people around us our enemies.
This is a lie.
It is a convenient lie that is whispered to women everywhere to alienate sisterhood, impede individual progress, and inhibit happiness. We ARE good enough. This imaginary race we’re running in our heads isn’t real, and it’s used against us to stop our progress. The images we see and compare ourselves to in the market place convince us the race is real so that we’ll buy their products to win.
We must stop living life out of fear. That mom who can touch her toes in yoga class or the one with the perfect kids? She is not your enemy. It’s OK to have weaknesses–and it’s OK to have strengths. When we can see that our self worth is inherent and divine and doesn’t have a darn thing to do with whether we can balance on one foot or teach ten languages to our children, then we gain power.
In giving away the power of competition and deciding to live our lives in love and not fear, we then gain peace. We can serve other women and our families freely. We can trust. We can gain real friendships. We can lead. Our abilities will exponentially expand in all directions. We’ll feel a deepening of our essence, our intelligence, the real “us” as well as see our mothering talents and hearts strengthen. We can let ourselves and other people have strengths. We are each of us unique, wonderful women with unique children and challenges. Progressing as a mother requires that we embrace and explore our own situations, trusting that within us lies the unique answers.
QUESTION: How are you trying to compare or compete with the mothers around you?
CHALLENGE: Try to catch yourself comparing yourself to other mothers. For every negative thought, replace it with a positive one: “My children are on their own time table. Johnny is a loving child. I am a patient mother. I am a great mother.”