Sadly, I generally have the weakness of comparing myself to other people. Usually it is the state of their house, how they parent, how they bake, or how they run their lives. I try hard to push these thoughts away and instead look at the positive things I am doing with my life, but it doesn’t always work.
One day, my son and I were reading a story in a magazine. It was about a little boy who opens his lunch at school and finds a note from his mom saying, “You are a smart boy.” The other boys around him see the note and tease him, saying he is a “silly boy.” The kid is bummed out and tells his mom about it when he comes home.
The mom in the story then tells him that even when people are mean, you can still do good. You can help someone have a good day. The next day, as the mom drops her son off at school, he is worried about the kids at lunch. She suggests that he can walk over to a recess teacher and tell her to have a great day. He does, and the teacher says, “You just made my day!” And the little boy is so happy that he was able to make someone else’s day better.
The magazine story is about my son. I had submitted it two years before and had forgotten about it. The magazine published it, and I had no idea.
The sad thing is that, as we were reading the story, I thought, “Wow, that mom is great for putting a note in the lunch box.” And, “What good advice! I should be more like her.” Then I read it again and I realized it was our story! My son is named Spencer and the story was called “Super Spencer.”
After I realized it was our story, I kicked myself for comparing myself to . . . myself! I thought this mom was so amazing for doing extra things for her kids and helping them with their problems, and I didn’t even realize this mom was me. How in the world am I supposed to feel good about myself and what I am doing as a mother, if I overlook the things I’m doing well and compare myself to others?
This was a great lesson for me. I do have some shining moments in motherhood, and in life, when things work out amazingly and I feel like we are all on the same team. I also have some moments that are pretty tough.
When I thought back on this event, I realized I had pictured the mom in the magazine totally put together, with a crumb-free van, and dressed before school every day. I pictured her as consistently patient and loving, with goals and talents, and perfect nails. That is certainly not how the mom in the story is. Usually, we’re running a little late, saying morning prayers in the car, and I’m wearing a heavy coat instead of a bra. And I still bite my nails at age 36.
The way I had pictured “magazine mom” was so wrong. The comparison trap went far for me, in spite of my best efforts. I want to keep a handle on it and notice how my mood changes when I compare myself to others.
I try to use the quote “Comparison is the thief of joy” as my mantra. This is helpful, but I like this one even better: “Why compare yourself with others? No one in the entire world can do a better job of being you than you.”
Why am I trying to be like other people when I am me? I am the person my husband and children need. I have talents, abilities, and goals that make me unique and special, just as you do. To compare myself to others is lessening my value. It is lessening what I am able to contribute to the world because I am so caught up with what I can’t do.
Let’s all try to focus on what we can do and how well we are doing it. How we have not given up, no matter what has happened in our lives, no matter how many times we thought we should give up. We have carried on and raised children and done hard things.
Let’s champion each other and let’s champion ourselves. Don’t get caught in the same comparison trap that I fell into. You might inadvertently compare yourself to yourself and end up feeling pretty silly in the end.
QUESTION: Do you compare yourself to others often? How does it affect your mood?
CHALLENGE: Take a break from or limit your interaction with social media or other forums that make you feel “less than.” Make a list of the things you do well.
Edited by Nollie Haws and Kimberly Price.
Image from Pixabay; graphics by Anna Jenkins.