COMPARISON IS STEALING YOUR JOY
Comparison is the thief of joy.
It makes you more concerned about what other people’s lives LOOK like instead of curating your own best life. Comparing yourself to others causes you to take your eye off the ball. You stop focusing on what matters most to you and instead start trying to get your life to look like someone else’s.
I have struggle with comparison for as long as I can remember. I was in the 5th grade and ALL the other girls in my class had three things that I desperately; this specific pair of nikes with blue fabric that faded from dark to light – they had bright white laces and that signature pearly white nike swoosh on the side, straight hair and shaved legs.
Yep – shoes, which I didn’t own, hair which I didn’t have and they were shaving their legs – a task that 10-year old me thought she wanted to start doing and then do for the rest of her adult life – bless my heart.
At that age… not only was I comparing myself to these other girls in my class, I didn’t simply admire them and saying I was jealous of how they looked and the way they dressed and what they did still doesn’t encompass how I felt… I wanted to BE them.
More to the point… I didn’t want to be me. I thought that if I could just look, talk, heck, even think like EVERYONE else in my class, then I’d feel like I belonged.
Oooooff. Talk about insecurity. I didn’t even want to be me. I wanted to be someone else.
When I find myself comparing to other women, moms, influencers, coaches or podcasters as a thirty something mom, there are underpinnings of that feeling that’s been dormant and intermittently rearing its head since I was 10. Let’s unpack this together because… if comparing ourselves to others is stealing our joy, it’s time to dig into WHY we do the comparing, HOW to decrease it and WHAT to do instead. Here we go!
I recently heard someone say that if you are navigating to someone’s IG feed or following closely their stories – you know, that person that you are invested in, intrigued by – and you are spending more than 1 minute looking deeply into their photos, profile and content you are doing one of two things:
- You are judging them.
- You are judging yourself by comparing what your life looks like to theirs.
I’m going to say that again. If you are, in real life, or on social media, spending more than 1 minute thinking about someone else’s life, photos, content or what they present to the world… you are either judging them or you are judging yourself by comparing your life to theirs.
Ooooofff. That hit me right in the solar plexus when I heard it.
I’m either judging myself and feeling envious of their life or I’m judging them… neither of which are things that I want to do.
I’m all about being inspired by others and I do think there’s a role for surrounding yourself with voices and humans who think, look, and speak differently from you, especially those who elevate your thinking, stretch you out of your comfort zone and inspire you to live differently.
Inspiration and comparison are completely different.
Comparison can be you looking down on your life or looking down on someone else’s life. Sometimes we choose to compare ourselves to those who have different flaws and challenges than we do… as a way to make ourselves feel better. This breed of comparison leads to arrogance.
Comparison can be you feeling badly that your life doesn’t look like there’s, feeling embarrassed by your body, your routine, your home, the way your kids behave… truly the list is endless. This form of comparison leads to shame.
Shame – the feeling that you yourself are wrong. That underpinning, the negative voice in your head that whispers that you aren’t good enough.
Here’s the reminder that you are exactly enough. You are strong enough, brave enough, badass enough, motivated enough – for whatever life holds for you!
INSPIRATION VS. COMPARISON
You might be thinking… but it’s HELPFUL to compare yourself to certain people because it adds fuel to my fire. It inspires me to see what they are doing and it encourages me to be brave, try new things, and take a different approach.
Here’s the difference between inspiration and comparison. Comparison, as we’ve identified, makes you feel either arrogant and shameful. Inspiration, on the other hand, makes you feel like anything is possible.
Inspiration boosts your spirits, feels your cup and fills you up.
Comparison drains you, leaves you feeling crappy and is an energy vampire.
Inspiration drives you to take new steps and create change in your life.
Comparison drags you backwards, make you feel like you could NEVER or that you just aren’t good enough.
Inspiration is listening to this episode and being motivated to change.
Comparison is telling yourself that these tips, the ability to stop comparing and to take action on your life instead… that’s for some other mom & you don’t have time.
Inspiration is a cheerleader and comparison is a heckler.
Still not sure? When you are looking at someone’s life and accomplishments do you feel like clapping for them or criticizing them?
Inspiration makes you feel like jumping for joy, cheering that person on and clapping them on the back.
Comparison makes you feel like criticizing, judgment and jealousy.
Inspiration makes you feel joy. Comparison makes you feel judgy.
WHY DO WE COMPARE?
Unpacking the reason that you find yourself comparing is key in this process to compare yourself less. For me, it’s insecurity. When I feel unsure about an aspect of my life, when I’m not rooted in my values, and if it’s an area I’m struggling in, when I see someone else struggling more – I’m going to prop myself up with their misfortune, and when I see someone winning in that area – I’m going to shame myself for not being able to do the same.
When my oldest was just 6 weeks old, I went to a breastfeeding support group. It was called Monday Morning Moms. I walked in feeling very alone in motherhood and walked out with a group of 10 other moms to navigate early mom life alongside. We started having lunch at Carrabbas after the moms group – we’d push these tables in the back together to accommodate the 10 of us and our 11 babies. The babies were so young, often dozing in our arms, that we had the guts to eat and stay for hours, nursing the kids, sharing the trials and tribulations of new mom life. Time flies because those babies are turning 7 this year. Holy moly!
We have an ongoing group message where you can ask questions like “is it normal for… X” and “anyone else navigating Y?” and with 11 newborns, statistically another mom was up, even at 2am to offer reassurance and solidarity alongside resources and advice. So it’s maybe the 3rd time we’ve gone out to lunch and we get on the topic of returning to work.
At this point, my baby is almost 2 months old. I’m kind of sort of feeling like I’ve got the hang of this mom gig, at least enough that I’m not second guessing ALL the decisions I’m making. I’m learning to trust my gut and embrace the unknown. I’m growing and developing alongside Colby. And I miss work. I LOVE my job as a surgery PA and I miss adult conversations, surgery, patients who are sick and needing to be resuscitated and rushed to the OR. I miss walking into the ER and giving the providers there a hard time. I miss my nurses. I miss my office staff. In short; I’m looking forward to returning to work. I’m actually considering going back early because I’m hungry to do the work of my heart, to do something that stretches me and fulfills me.
We go around the table and of the 10 moms, 6 are going to be staying home for the foreseeable future and the 3 who are returning to work share that they would 100% stay home if logistically and financially that was feasible. Wait, what? Out of this sample of 10 moms… I’m the ONLY one who is returning to work by choice?
I come home and tearfully tell Dan that I feel badly for wanting to return to work. Bless his heart, he thinks that I don’t want to go back to work. I clarify… it’s not that I don’t want to return… it’s that I feel guilty for wanting to return. I’m NOT one of those moms who feel so deeply, madly in love with her baby that she wishes to leave her role outside the home to be with him 24-hours a day. In fact, the prospect of that leaves me feeling anxious and like part of me would be missing.
What kind of mother am I? I don’t even love my kid enough to be willing to sacrifice my career, my dreams and ambitions so that I’m home for his first steps. I’m going to entrust his care to someone else to selfishly pursue my career aspirations, to do something that fills me up and to return to a job that I loved.
Dan has this way of getting to the heart of the matter. So as I’m spiraling in my head and berating myself for not being a “good mom” he asks… “Do you love your job?” Yep. “Do you love Colby?” Of course! Then, he asks, why would you consider giving up either?
In this instance, I could get caught up in a Should Storm. I internalized the plans of these other moms and decided that I SHOULD stay home and even if I was returning to work I SHOULD want to stay home and SHOULD be returning under duress.
Guess what? Confidence in your choices, which comes from living in alignment with your deeply held values… confidence comes from owning your thoughts, directing your feelings and choosing your actions… confidence is like an umbrella in a should storm. It keeps you dry from your own and other’s expectations of you and let’s you get where you are going without soaking them in.
Confidence is a skill. It’s something to be honed and developed over time. Motherhood shook mine, and if that’s true for you, don’t worry. Be conscious of it and be working to flex that muscle!
Another skill to sharpen when you are looking to ditch comparison is gratitude. I shared my vulnerable behind-the-scenes take on gratitude and growth here.
HOW DOES IT FEEL VS. HOW DOES IT LOOK
Here’s the crux of this as a problem for the way you are designing and living your life. You aren’t actively planning how you want your life to FEEL.
Let’s talk about this key difference between how your life LOOKS and how it FEELS. It can absolutely look like everything is great – you’re married with a safe and comfortable and maybe even nicely decorated home – you have the two and a half kids, the dog bred with a doodle, the shiny cars – the two jobs and it’s everything you ever dreamt about… but it doesn’t feel right. Something is missing. It still feels…. Empty and unfulfilling.
The reason is that you aren’t living into your deeply held values. You haven’t taken the time and put in the work to figure out what matters most to you. It behooves us to take a moment to emphasize that these core values are YOUR deeply held values. It’s not what your Mom, sister, best friend, the people in your office, at your church or in your book club value. These aren’t the things that society tells us matter. It’s what matters most to you.
If you are feeling kind of lost and not sure where to start with discovering those core values, head to the show notes and download Your Core Value Curator today – it’s a 3-step process to help you identify, excavate and fine tune those deeply held values so that you can start living clearly in alignment with them today.
Living in alignment with your values. Sounds simple. But it requires self-reflection and constant calibration… you’ll find yourself asking “does this align?” and saying HELL NO to opportunities that come across your path and don’t align with your values.
WHAT TO DO INSTEAD: THE COMPARISON GUT CHECK
Here’s what to do when you find yourself comparing your life to anyone else’s. It’s a two question gut check that you can do in 10 seconds to help bring you back to yourself, centered in your life and your values.
When you find yourself comparing yourself to someone, or even dreaming of their life and saying I WISH or I WONDER or I WANT my life, my home, my marriage, my instagram feed to look like theirs. Ask yourself:
- Do I REALLY want my life to look AND feel like that?
- What would I have to do to make that true in my life?
Here’s an example of how comparison sparked some positive change in my life by using the Comparison Gut Check.
I have this dear friend who, although I’ve never met her in person, is one of my biggest supporters, cheerleaders and instagram friends. She has one single daughter. If you know me at all you know that I have a whole not one, not two, but five humans. I found myself jealous of the one-on-one time she gets to spend with her daughter.
- Do I REALLY want my life to look and feel like that? Well, no. Not all the time, obviously, as that would necessitate me selling my children on etsy or to the circus.
- What would I have to do to make that true in my life? See above prospects of reducing our children to 1 from 5. Not happening. But… I can prioritize and schedule one-on-one time with each of my kids. This means that I have pockets of time when I can focus on them, we can connect and make memories together without the distraction that is 4 other siblings vying for attention.
The next time you find yourself comparing ask yourself if that life you are seeing, from the outside, is what you want your life to look or feel like and then, what would have to be true to make it happen. If that doesn’t dissuade you, make that feeling a specific goal and take steps to create it in your life. If these questions make you realize that you don’t REALLY want that life, make like Queen Elsa and Let It Go!
Focus on you. Be intentional with your thoughts, feelings, vibrational frequency and actions.
Create a life of design. Work with a coach. Do the internal work. Go to therapy. Grow your confidence.
Focusing on the things you can change – the way you show up in the world, what you value, what you choose and do on a daily basis – puts the power back into your hands.
Identify your triggers and do those triggering things less.
Dig into WHY you are comparing, have a set of questions or a reality check that you walk through when you feel that undercurrent of comparison.
Foster gratitude in your everyday life. This helps us to focus on the blessings that abound in our own life.
Love yourself. I’m working on it.
It’s a journey we are all on – to embrace the beauty that is you – you are unique and that’s incredible. Embracing the imperfections, the quirks and the characteristics that make me… me. I’m glad you’re here on this journey, too.
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