Renew- Comparison

April 16, 2015

Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  Though I’m sure TR said many wise and true things, this has got to be one of the truest.  I find this statement to be almost unconditionally accurate-for me, my family, my friends, and my clients.  Comparing ourselves to other people ultimately never makes us feel good.  When we play the comparison game, even if we win for a minute we will likely lose pretty soon.  We will always be able to find someone who we feel is “better” than us.  When we base how we feel about ourselves on the way that we measure up against other people, we are setting ourselves up for a lot of insecurities.  I don’t think any of us intentionally choose to think this way—it’s a way of thinking that is really, really easy to accidentally slip into.

I’m not sure that this is a topic that would have ever even come to my mind if I wasn’t counseling clients and talking so closely with them about the ways that they feel about themselves.  In addition to this, by the nature of being a counselor you end up talking with lots of different people in lots of different areas outside an official counseling setting. Through all this I notice that comparison is something that most women struggle with at least occasionally.  And I notice that so often when we feel bad about ourselves it’s because we have compared something about ourselves to something about someone else and decided that we don’t measure up.  I know that this can be true for me, and it’s not ever something that I mean to do.  I don’t have a 12 step program that you can follow that will rid you of the temptation to compare yourself to others forever, but I do want to share a couple of ideas that may be helpful in “renewing” the way we see ourselves.

-We are all the winner of our own lives.  A couple of years ago I was talking about the idea of comparison with my friend Emily and she made this statement.  I personally feel like this quote is right up there with TR’s words.  Something that I think can be really unsettling is when the people that we have a lot in common with start doing things differently than us.  When people that we respect start making decisions that are different than what we feel is best or what we would want it can make us think Wait.  Maybe I should be doing that too.  Why am I not doing that too?  Which can easily lead to thoughts like Why can’t I get it together? What’s wrong with me?

In college I had the best friends anyone could have ever asked for, and they’re still like family today.  In college we did things mostly the same way—we lived in the same place, we ate the same things, and we just had reasonably similar lives.  After we graduated, we started doing things differently.  Some got married right away, some went to more school.  Some stayed in the town where we went to college, some moved away.  Today some of us have kids and some of us don’t.  Some work from 9 to 5, some stay home with babies, and some are self-employed.  We’ve moved around and all of our homes are very different.  Our lives look different, but we are all doing great, because each of us is the winner of our own life.  This is true for my friends, your friends, all of us.  Life is not a contest or a race, and each of us is different and that’s ok.  It’s really more than ok, it’s what makes life interesting and it helps us learn from each other.

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All different and all fabulous.  Also, all blinded by the sun in this picture, thus the glasses.

-You never know what’s really going on with someone else.  I am learning more and more how true this is.  We all know that girl who looks perfect on the outside.  She may have a perpetually clean house, seem like she has plenty of money, and somehow her baby weight disappeared immediately upon giving birth.  She might make perfect Pinterest crafts with her kids, volunteer at her church, and perhaps she grows her own organic vegetables in her backyard.  She’s even thinking of starting a business soon.   On top of all of this, she’s so nice! She’s so kind and genuine that you can’t help but really like her.  Somehow she does all of this while looking great, while I am doing well to just exit my house reasonably on time wearing reasonably clean clothes.  Some weeks I don’t grocery shop therefore we have no food.  My house is a mess unless I work really, really hard to keep it clean.  Sometimes I’m too tired to work at church on Sundays.  I have more baby weight than “perfect girl” and I’ve never even had a baby.  Why can’t I get it together like her?

This is a little bit of an exaggeration, but we all know how easy it is to fall into a thought process like this one.  The truth is that we have no way of knowing what is really going on with a person, despite how things may seem on the outside.  No one is perfect, so the “perfect girl” definitely has problems that you can’t see.  Maybe they’re every day type struggles, or maybe they’re really big, really difficult issues.  Maybe the girl whose life seems so perfect would really give anything to trade places with you. I want to stress that I don’t say this to mean that we should feel better about ourselves because people who seem great might not be so great after all. I am just pointing out that when we compare ourselves to someone else, we are really just comparing ourselves to an idea and not reality.

To sum things up, true self-esteem and confidence have to come from somewhere inside of us, and not from feeling like “at least my life is better than hers.” Each of us is special, with unique talents and a unique purpose.  Of course we all have differences.  How else would we be able to accomplish anything or learn from each other if we were exactly the same? I feel like this quote from Dr. Seuss wraps up my thoughts nicely—“Today you are you! That is truer than true! There is no one alive who is you-er than you!”

What makes you unique? What’s your favorite quirky (or just weird) thing about yourself that makes you unique? What do you do when you feel tempted to compare your life to someone else’s?

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cyndi April 16, 2015 at 4:29 pm

Great blog, Whitney.
May I add a quote I love? “When we compare ourselves to others, we are comparing our inside with their outside!”
Keep it up. You are speaking truth.

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