There are so many sayings out there dealing with comparison. Most are made to cause us pause, to make us think, to urge us not to compare. The most known, most loved, and most quoted comes from President Roosevelt. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Boy, was he right.
In a world where everyone seems to celebrate differences, why is it that what we actually want is more of the same? At least we behave that way. When I see the differences between my 4 children, I delight in it. I relish it because I think what a boring place our home would be if we were all the same? They like different things, they help in different ways, they enjoy different treats and react differently to punishments. The differences between our family members is what makes life truly sweet.
But then I look at myself. I see what is reflected within me. I see a woman who is constantly comparing her worth, her intelligence, her double chin, the bags under her eyes, her clothes, her shoes, and pretty much everything else with those around her. I’m not the prettiest, the smartest, the best, the most clever, THE anything really. I live a pretty average life, own pretty average stuff, have a pretty average family, and actually LOVE it. So, why does it even matter what others have, don’t have, or gasp. . .think of me? It doesn’t. Or at least, it shouldn’t.
I have wasted hours, probably days, caring about this stuff. But, there was a time when I didn’t and I want that time back. I want my awesome, average life back.
Once upon a time, my family lived overseas. Sure, I used facebook to keep up with family and friends. It was nice, actually. But, guess what? I didn’t care about what anyone else was cooking, because chances are I couldn’t even find all of the ingredients. I didn’t care about telephone plans, or coupons, or hot deals. I didn’t give a rip about people’s home decor or the latest trends because the latest trends where I lived were so different. I didn’t care about your hairstyle because the guy who did my hair pretty much did whatever he wanted, as did the rest of the stylists in my town. Your stories were nice, your kids were cute, your husbands were great, but so what? It didn’t really have anything to do with me and my life. I was looking at facebook while standing in line at the post office for an hour just to pay a bill. I cooked a dinner that my family would appreciate, but that chances are, you might not. And, I didn’t even care.
When we moved back to the states, I celebrated the differences between my family and others. I thought it was cool. I didn’t care that your kids went to bed at 8 and mine were just eating dinner. It didn’t matter to me that our neighbors had a fancy car and I was still borrowing my dad’s minivan. Who really cares? My kids were fed and had a ride to school. We walked to the grocery store sometimes because we missed walking so much. So what if the crazy Americans thought we were poor, we were healthy, right?
But, slowly the perfect Pinterest pins have made me compare myself. My parenting. My choices. The Instagram photos in all their filtered glory make me wonder why my skin doesn’t look like that. I don’t want to care. But, often I do.
But oh how freeing it is when you make decisions for yourself. How liberating it is to come to grips with the fact that your pants have a little tear in the waistband that only you can see and that your glasses have this little scratch and that your couch kind of smells like the dog and that your kid did, in fact, fail that test BUT your pants are your absolute faves, your glasses are adorable, your dog is pretty much family and your kid is actually really smart but just had a bad day. Don’t we all? Don’t we all have an off day? There’s no way that you can tell me that the cute mom has never been pooped on by her baby or that the super athletic mom is laughing with delight on mile 6 because it’s so fun! They all struggle. We all struggle. Some of us are more disciplined than others. (Not me.) Some are more naturally thin or attractive or fun. Whatever, sure. We all have great qualities. But we also all have some areas that need work. The people that look like they have it all together, the people that you compare yourself to, they may be 10 hot seconds from falling apart. You just aren’t gonna see that unfold on Instagram. There isn’t going to be a slide in her story of her falling apart on the bathroom floor, crying in the dark because she’s overwhelmed. But you better believe it’s happened. You’re not going to see cute pins of her yelling at her husband and kids and walking out the front door to catch her breath and take a little break. But, I suppose she could have made a slide of that one, too. Do you think there’s pins of the mom who drinks too much or the boss that snaps at her employees under stress? Yeah, I don’t think so either. But, dang, she’s cute and she made a killer organic chicken casserole with tons of veggies that her toddler loved and ate with abandon right before she put him the tub and smiled big for the camera. Those are the snapshots she sharing with you.
I’m convinced that I haven’t let comparison rob my joy, I’ve just practically given it away! I’ve told comparison, “whatever. You can just have it.” I’ve spent so much time (wasted time) seeing myself as less than that the joy has been sucked right out. And, I’m just not going to do it anymore. Forget it. Comparison isn’t worth it. It’s not worth losing my joy to compare myself with a standard that doesn’t even exist. It’s filtered and fake and only shows one tiny part of the whole. I’m taking my joy back. Today. Now. And I’d suggest you do the same.