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Comparison is the thief of joy — both ways

Never Measuring Up

We’ve all heard the age old expression, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” And it’s so very true. The minefield of motherhood is absolutely fraught with countless opportunities to compare ourselves, our bodies, our children, our homes, and our decisions to everyone else around us–and online. Never feeling like we measure up to what “they” are all doing (who are “they” anyways?!), we can oftentimes feel like we/our kids are behind the curve and don’t have our lives together.

At the root of it all, we all just want the best for our children and families. I think it’s a rare situation that someone truly has such an ego that they want to be seen as the best, prettiest, smartest, whatever-est of the bunch. At the very core, we just want to know that our loved ones are happy, healthy, “on track” and living with as little hardship as possible. And because parenthood comes with zero instructions, we only have other people to look to for a reference point to determine how “good” we are all doing physically, mentally, academically, etc.

Unfortunately, when this comparison trap gets out of balance, we can compare too much and never be content with the children, bodies, and lives that we do have. We miss the beautiful moments of how amazing our circumstances really are and can forget to be grateful for all the things going right in our worlds. That is the joy that comparison seeks to rob us of. 

comparison is the thief of joyThe Double Edged Sword

But I want to talk about the flip side of comparison and how it also gives us a skewed perception of the good in our lives.

Whenever I find myself in a comparison spiral, there’s always some well-intention friend or family member that chimes in with “Well, it could always be worse. You or your child could have x-y-z awful, incurable disease. You could be living through this terrible life circumstance.” This immediately snaps me back into “reality” and makes me feel guilty for ever complaining about whatever I was complaining about. “Look at all the good you have. You have no reason to feel bad or to struggle with this,” I tell myself. 

I think forcing yourself to believe that you are better off than other people is equally as damaging as believing the lie that you are worse off. Making yourself believe that you don’t have it as bad as others also creates feeling of inadequacy for struggling or feeling lost and defeated in the first place. Comparison, once again, is stealing your joy. Only this time, it’s robbing you of the opportunity to be an over-comer. By telling yourself that things could always be worse, you are denigrating your own experience and believing that what you have accomplished isn’t a big deal.

Thief! Don’t let it take your joy, mama!

I previously wrote about no one having a monopoly on exhaustion, and I’m going to take it a step further and suggest that no one has a monopoly on hardship. Yes, there are people going through inexplicable tragedy and difficulty, and their struggle deserves to be acknowledged with empathy and compassion. And I’m not suggesting  you should brag and boast about every tiny little thing. But all I’m saying is that you are allowed to come up against something that seems like an immovable mountain to you, and you are allowed to be beat down by it, and you are allowed to be commended for the way you conquered it regardless of how much someone else has overcome.

If we as mothers aren’t allowed to rejoice in what we’ve been able to overcome because someone else seems to have accomplished more, and if we’re not allowed to be happy with what we have because someone else has something better, then what are we doing? What can we ever find joy in?

So stop comparing your lives and your children to others. Stop comparing in any capacity. It only divides and isolates us. Instead, if you see someone with something great, congratulate them and be a part of their happiness. If you see someone with something not so great, connect with them and join them in their journey. And be honest about your life so that others can celebrate and commiserate with you, as well. Can you imagine if we all started doing this? We’d be an unstoppable generation of mothers and there’s nothing we couldn’t all get through together.

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