We’re all guilty of it. The “IT” I’m referring to? COMPARISON. You know, the evil thing we do to ourselves when we’re already in a down place. However, for some unknown reason our mind takes us FURTHER down by pulling out ONLY the good someone else has going for them. Consequently, making us feel less than adequate. Oh, the devil in comparison. Even when our rational brain tells us not to do this and there is more to the story, our guilty mom brain takes us there. Blerg.
Last week, I enjoyed an evening of social distance visiting with three fellow mom friends in a parking lot. If you haven’t tried this yet, I highly recommend!
Regardless, I was overcome with a sense of sadness throughout the conversation about what is going on for parents right now. Each expressed the feeling of “not being enough” for instance, whether it came to routine, schoolwork, family meals, engagement beyond video games… You name it, we covered it.
In particular, what intrigued me the most about this conversation was where those feelings REALLY stemmed from. Comparison.
SOCIAL ISOLATION- THE DEVIL IN COMPARISON
One particular comment stuck with me for days. Our school has a Facebook page specifically dedicated to this time of quarantine. For student engagement, we’re encouraged to post images of art, music, gym, and various challenges the school puts out each week. While it’s a great idea for engagement of the kids and keeping up with connection, I think from a parent perspective it may be having an unintentional counterproductive effect. You know, the devil in comparison.
The comment made was something along the lines of, “it’s just so frustrating. I see EVERYONE posting on the Facebook page about these fun activities they are doing with their kids during this time and I feel like a failure. We’re barely staying afloat through the schoolwork and then our own jobs.”
STOP RIGHT THERE! (my best Meatloaf, Paradise by the Dashboard Lights impersonation…. You’re singing it now, aren’t you?!)
Holy smokes, the post is a five-minute snippet into their day! Maybe the parents are doing the activities for their own sanity and are using it like a coffee break from their work. On the other hand, maybe the parents require doing the creative activity to release their own guilt for then allowing a day full of video games. Or it represents a shred of DOING something in this strange time we’re in.
Whatever the case, guilt at the base. Case in point, me.
TAKE ME AWAY- COMPARISON
I posted a few times over the last two months showing a couple of the art projects. My kids have more toys and gadgets than I can count and there has been an overwhelming amount of guilt in me about how the days of E-Learning have gone. Frankly, it’s a mad dash. Hurry through the requirements of E-Learning materials and then off to the races for independent play for the afternoon so Jeremy and I can get SOMETHING done work wise. And those aforementioned toys and gadgets to spark creativity? Zip. It’s video games.
One particular post of mine showed the kids lying on sheets in the yard trying to create a scene for their art project. We (read: me) had this amazingly creative idea of Jake floating away holding balloons on a blue sheet (the sky) while Bryce grabbed his feet from the green sheet (the ground) to save him.
The picture captured both boys laughing. Actually, correction. Jake was making a face that was supposed to look like he was panicked about floating away. In reality, he just looked like he needed to poop. Bryce’s face in savior mode with smiles but you can’t see this because he turned his face into the sheet EVERY…. TIME…. I took a picture. I stood on a chair on our second story deck trying to capture this just right. To clarify, just right includes my 11-year-old barking orders such as, “don’t get the grass in the picture around the blue sheet and balloons mom!” Sure…. Easy enough. Said no one ever.
TAKE ME AWAY- THE REAL STORY
First off, the above scenario was fun, and we did get a good laugh about this project in the five minutes of the photo shoot itself. Second, what the photo doesn’t show is this:
- Fighting with BOTH of them about doing this art project to begin with. “Do we HAVE TO do this MOM!??!” Response internal: Yes, because I need you to do SOMETHING creative.
- The initial attempt at this photo in the garage where the ceiling was too low for me to get high enough to get both of them in the shot. I then hit my head on the ceiling while on the ladder sending me into a temporary rage.
- Bryce stomping up the stairs not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES to go get the blue sheet after me telling him exactly where it was. He came back empty handed each time, but I refused to cave into doing it for him.
- The two minutes after the picture where the boys desperately wanted me to edit this image in photo shop to take out the grass. In fact, they wanted me to upgrade the program I use so we could enhance the photo more than my free program allows. NOW they were suddenly really into this project they didn’t want to do in the first place, but I no longer had time to participate with a client call starting in four minutes.
Shall I continue?
YOU ARE ENOUGH
We’re all smart enough to know what we see on social media doesn’t show the whole picture. But if I’ve learned nothing in my time as a mother, it’s still REALLY hard to stop our minds from going there. Furthermore, it’s easier to forget there is a backstory or remembering the five minutes we just saw doesn’t represent their entire 24 hours. Shaming ourselves into believing we aren’t good enough somehow takes less time than rationally thinking through what we’re seeing.
Well my sweet friend, YOU ARE ENOUGH.
It’s ironic, I started this blog article back in January when I planned out the year of cadence and topics. While comparison and competition were to be the topic, the examples within have changed dramatically with our world being flipped upside down. Even so, the take-away remains.
Telling someone to take comparison out of their head is like telling a red head to calm down in the heat of a moment. Good luck. Like when I hit my head on the ceiling while on the ladder…. Good times, good times.
REMOVE THE DEVIL IN COMPARISON
Even so, what are some things you can do to pull yourself out of this mindset of comparison? In fact, REMOVE the devil in comparison.
First, we can continue to remind ourselves social media is a snippet of life. The more we utilize positive self-talk and genuine excitement for others, the more we are able to shift our mindset. There are all sorts of studies around gratefulness and how our mindset changes with a renewed focus towards the positive.
For instance, what if we started a practice of gratitude for someone sharing a snippet into their world? This likely won’t happen overnight, but if we continue to focus on why we are grateful for what someone shared, we will then see a shift in our initial response to a post. In turn, moving from a triggered response of comparison to an auto response of gratitude.
Second, analyze what it is about the comparison really triggering you. So often, we think we should push those thoughts and feelings DEEP DOWN because they are “wrong.” Why not try to give those feelings their moment? Then ask ourself questions around what REALLY is bothering you. Likely, your emotions are trying to get you to realize something. Utilize the intel. Shoving the emotions down are just going to make them come on stronger in the next devil in comparison.
Lastly, view competition differently. Competition can be a good thing. Think about sports. We all love them. They can be healthy. Is there something in your brain gnawing at you with what you are seeing? Could this comparison be inspirational to you? Motivating you to do something you have always wanted to do but it was easier to talk yourself out of rather than take the first step?
IN SUMMARY- THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO HMMMM
We all have our priorities. After analyzing why our head went to the space of comparison, move forward with the intel gained on a new perspective. More importantly, I beg of you to give yourself grace always, but especially in this time of social isolation.
I listened to a podcast the other day by Sara Blakely, the founder of Spanx. She has a net worth of over $1 billion dollars and is an absolutely fascinating entrepreneur. Even so, she is married, has four children, and is way more relatable than you may think. When asked her advice for this time of quarantine, parenting, and running a business, her response was this: “Lower your expectations of yourself during this time.”
There you have it. In this world of high achieving, picture perfect social media posting, how about you cut yourself some slack. You are enough. Look the devil in comparison in the eye and tell him, YOU ARE ENOUGH.
Don’t compare yourself with anyone in this world. If you do so, you are insulting yourself.
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