You enemy. You trickster. You thief. The lies tangle our minds like a web, sticky and endless. Wrapping us in an unseen but felt presence, like the spider’s trap. Joy is sucked out of our lives like a vacuum when you dominate our minds. We know it's a choice, but your voice is so loud it feels overpowering at times. You beat us up and leave us for nothing. You’re subtle, yet powerful, whispering your lies. Comparison: you are a distorter of truth, a tidal wave of unwanted emotions and a distraction from our deepest desires. You prey on our weaknesses and blind us of our strengths. Our value of worth does not lie in your measurements. We do not fit in your box, in your false assumption of perfection. Comparing ourselves to anyone else is futile, ineffective, and painful.
I would take a guess that many of us fight this battle regularly. We know it produces counterproductive results, and yet, there we are again dreamy eyed, staring and thinking of that person or life we measure ourselves with. I don't know about you, but these wishful wanderings leave me at a bottom of a pit unsure how to regain solid ground. It's a mental beating that kicks me down, hindering my progress forward.
So, can I just say this?
There is no such thing as perfect! I'm a recovering perfectionist who had a child and realized this profound truth. Yes, the mom in the MOPS group may seem stylish, fit, organized, showered, and all in all the incarnation of a life-sized Barbie, but that's only one side of that coin. No matter how hard people may work to appear put together, we all have crap going on.
Perfection is a mirage. It feels good, but is as fleeting as the wind. We may float on it for a while thinking we've achieved it ...but like the wind it moves on, always it moves on, dropping you back down to the ground. Take it from me, don't float yourself up that way, then crash back down to earth. It hurts. It's not a lasting sense of self or joy trying to be a picture of perfect to the world. Seeking perfection turns us, especially us moms, into competitors rather than teammates. We laugh at our children for playing with imaginary friends, but isn’t living life secretly desiring to be more like someone else just as silly? The damage it does to us is not laughable though, is it? It hurts to feel like you are not enough, to believe other moms are better, more scheduled and put together, more conditioned, and successful than you. It hurts to feel that somehow you are the only one missing out on a full life. I battle these thoughts daily even though I know the ancient truth is that my heart will follow what my mind consistently dwells on.
Can I just say this?
Your ability to mother well does not have to do with how your neighbor or friend is choosing to mother. Showing up each day, intentionally finding connection and creating a safe place for your children is enough of a job to do, without adding to the burden by looking around and seeing how others are reaching their goals.
You are the parent that God gave your children. While a cookie cutter mold would be much easier to achieve desired results, with this job it's a unique task for you to creatively form for your family. It's a living breathing organism, not lifeless dough to be pressed about into a cookie cutter mold. Looking over at Mary or Betty sucks confidence and joy right out of our lives. She may be organized but struggles to find times to play, while you are spastic and messy, but playing comes naturally to you. You will not succeed as a mom if your efforts are going from trying to change your design as a frying pan to be more like the teapot because your think brewing is cooler than frying.
We are all uniquely talented, and cannot spend our time envying others for their strengths. Please know, this world needs you. Do not allow these sneaky lies to sit you down and disable you from your vital job! Your potential can never be reached in the efforts of throwing off your original design in attempts to become a copy of another original.
Can I just say this?
Comparing ourselves to others hinders as our ability to learn and grow. Sadly, I've spent far too many years focused on those around me than where I want to head and develop. When you look at someone for approval to see if you are not totally failing at life, you lose the ability to glean knowledge and new "tricks" from the differing people in your life. Comparison breeds insecurity, and insecurity immobilizes and destroys. You cannot gain new information and apply it to your life when you're in a place of insecurity. Existing in an insecure life creates barriers against newness because you do not want anyone to affirm what you already believe, "you are failing" "you are not good enough" "your life sucks" etc. In this place of existence, you keep everything similar so as to not crash your already weak state of being. This is the result of allowing a false measuring stick to preside in our life. Comparing ourselves causes us to shut down in a disabling way. When we focus on another's life, whether that be personality, things, or a season of life, we cannot learn and appreciate the differences we bring to the table that are complimentary additions to each other’s lives. "Comparison with myself brings improvement, comparison with others brings discontent" (Betty Jamie Chung)
Can I just say this?
If you are in a valley and it seems you are the only one not on the mountaintop "living it up" know you are not alone. I love my child and my husband, but I'm in a valley at this time in my life. I’m tired. I’m not in an overly blissful state of being. I have so much to be thankful for and I truly am blessed by God. But this mothering of a young sleepless babe, while keeping up with "outside life" is hard work. Job situations for us is hard. Fighting continued sickness for the past 6 months is hard. But comparing myself to others around me made it harder than it needed to be.
The refining valleys of life make us into diamonds, but we cannot fight the process. Comparing your valley to another's time of refreshment on the mountaintop is even more painful and depressing. You are not alone in hard seasons. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and God does have a purpose for the pain. Embrace the hard times with the good and you will come forth as gold! If we experience only the refreshing tranquil beach seasons, we would remain an unchanged and immature individual. Allow these times of hardship to do their painful but necessary work.
During this season I have had many weeks of social media "breaks" because I was not strong enough to fight against the desire to compare my life to the glorious existence of those around me. Tuning out and turning in freed me to slow down and removed the pressure to stop trying to turn the winter season into spring when it wasn't springs timing yet. In doing so I learned this: even dreary winter has beauty like sparkling snowflakes. My snowflakes have been that I know God will never leave me, my husband’s unfailing care for me during my struggle with some health issues, and the joy of focusing on making my daughter laugh everyday no matter what silliness it took to achieve.
So can I just say this?
Stop. Join me in refusing to allow yourself to measure your worth by anyone else's life. I'm preaching to myself over here. Right now I'm telling myself to stop! The mind is the battleground. I remember I once heard a story that helped me better understand the power of thoughts. You have two wolves fighting. Their names are Truth and Lies. Whichever wolf gets fed the most will be the one nourished enough to claim victory. Your thoughts are the food and whichever one you give most of your time and effort to is the wolf that will win. Which wolf are you feeding? I know it's not always that simple. Lies and truth get muddled so easily. But, the truth will set you free. Lies entangle and imprison us while we sit in jail with the keys.
We have the power to free ourselves with the keys in our hand, but as long as we choose to believe what is untrue we will remain caged. It is silly, but challenging. We were never meant to compare ourselves to each other. The person and life next to us is not the measuring stick for which we evaluate our success. We will never find purpose in throwing out the original in order to copy another. Or in stomping another person down in order to feel closer to that imagined measuring stick looming above us. Free others to inspire you rather then conquer you. "Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid" (Albert Einstien). So momma, you are not stupid! You just need to stop climbing and start swimming!
Journalist: Megan Gutierrez