Stop Comparing and Reclaim Joy!

I’m a little late writing a post this week, but it is for a good reason.  I had the pleasure of celebrating my eldest’s 8th birthday and throwing her a wild animal party with her friends this week.  Note to Self: Hosting a birthday party with 20 kids will physically and emotionally drain you as a six-month pregnant woman.  Whew.  Survival was only made possible due to my better half being there to help every step of the way.  Hooray for helpful husbands!


Each time one of my children turns a year older, I reflect on life as it was around their birth.  Birthdays have a tendency of making us reflective that way.  Particularly when it comes to children, we think about growth and development.  I saw this quote by author and artist, Doe Zantamata, that seemed fitting to share this week, in which our family celebrated my beautiful daughter’s birthday.  Zantamata wrote on her blog The HIYLife, “If your parents ever measured you as a child, they had you stand against a wall, and made a little pencil mark on the wall to show your growth.  They did not measure you against your brother, or the neighbor’s kids, or kids on TV.  When you measure your growth, make sure to only measure your today self by your past self.”  I needed this reminder as much for myself as for the healthy raising of my children.

Just this week, as I was attempting to make my daughter’s party cupcake tops look like zebra stripes using chocolate sprinkles on top of white frosting, I stood there comparing myself to others.  To be precise, I said out loud to my husband, “If my Mom could see how poorly I was doing this, she would be rolling over in her grave.”  My husband, in his kindness said, “If your Mom was here she would be playing with the kids or dipping these strawberries in chocolate and would not be fussing over your cupcakes.”  I smiled at the idea of my Mom actually being there and how she would be too busy helping to critique.  Don’t get me wrong, my Mom had her thoughts on such matters, but she was never one to compare.  Of course, my self-bashing still continued as each cupcake seemed to get worst and worst.  I began mumbling negative thoughts under my breath and starting to plot my submission to the Pinterest Fails, as surely another woman out there had done this better than me.  They really looked nothing like zebra stripes.  The chocolate sprinkles were just too big to pull off the idea I had in mind.  My husband suggested that I just skip the striped plan and make them black and white.  Done.  They actually looked much better after his suggestion.  But the thought occurred to me, would I have been so hard on myself had I not thought of what my Mom was capable of in the kitchen or the myriad of amazing results I’ve seen on Pinterest?  The cupcakes somehow became more acceptable when I just looked at them as my personal offering to the party guests versus the end product of all marvelous things created by others in the kitchen.  It was amazing how much better I felt once I let go of my urge to compare myself to others.

Unfortunately, that’s what the natural part of me does.  It’s the same with this blog.  As I’ve mentioned before, I struggled to start such a blog based on the mere fact that others out there write better than me.  My logic told me, “what’s the point in writing at all, if others can do it so exceptionally well?”.  Even worse, I’m certain I do it with my kids too.  I make a conscience effort not to do it, but if I can get caught up in a cupcake decorating frenzy, I have got to be doing this to my kids without even knowing.  My two girls, with only two years between them, seem to constantly be in a struggle with what each of them has and does not have.  I fear I may be adding to it.  While my husband and I are constantly telling them that it’s most important to be themselves, as Everyone Else is Already Taken, I may very well be comparing them merely in just how I discipline them.  I cringe at how many times I have said to my eldest, “How is it that your sister who is two years younger can listen and follow directions, but you can’t?”  Ugh.  It’s embarrassing to even type such things, but I’m an impatient and an imperfect woman and these things happen in our home.  I don’t condone them, but still they happen.  I would never let my girls speak to themselves the way I sometimes speak to myself.  Nor would I let them compare themselves to any other kid.  Yet I seem to do comparisons naturally.  Any chance I can place some blame on being taught how to do Venn Diagrams as a kid?

All joking aside, comparing yourself with another is an ugly habit and it begets ugly feelings.  I find that most all of my moments of discouragement and disappointment are rooted with my actions of comparisons.  Not comparing my today self with my past self, but comparing myself with others.  Come to think of it, the last time I had a good cry-fest (these happen more frequently while I’m pregnant) was last week when I was sitting comparing my life without having my Mom around with others who still get to have their Moms around.  I even wrote a post on Over The Big Moon entitled Because of Him about working through the process and letting go of my “have not” attitude.  Oh vey, Readers.  I think we may have a bigger beast on our hands than I realized.  This issue really is just as Theodore Roosevelt stated, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

I don’t want to rob myself nor my children of such joy.  I’m praying that my heightened awareness of this matter within myself and in our home will help me to eradicate it.  As always, I invite you to share your insights and suggestions in the comments section.  Obviously, I have much to learn.  I see and understand all the drawbacks that come from comparing ourselves to others.  That part I know.  But how do you stop from comparing yourself to others and comparing your children with other children when it seems to come naturally?  Is it as simple as Bob Newhart says in one of the most hilarious bits I’ve seen regarding therapy?  Do I just STOP IT?!

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3 thoughts on “Stop Comparing and Reclaim Joy!

  1. Even though I am old enough to be your mother, your posts bring me joy. When I see them in my email, I know I’ll have a good nugget to take away from your thoughts. Thanks for writing your blog. It matters to me.

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  2. Where would we be without comparisons? Would your doctor know if your unborn child is thriving without medical norms against which to compare its development? Would you know how your daughter is progressing academically without comparisons to academic standards? Because we’ve seen a Rembrandt or Cezanne, because we’ve read a Dickens or Steinbeck, heard a Streisand or observed the teachings of Mother Teresa, are we not more able to recognize talents, form our values and aspire to strengthen our shortcomings? I suggest the issue is not in the comparing, but in how we use the information. Comparing for awareness and enlightenment is one thing; comparing to judge is perhaps quite another.

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  3. I think this post was very much about comparing one’s own self with others, not necessarily the various types of scenarios listed in the previous comment. Of course, comparisons are useful in those instances! That is quite obvious. I think the more important point of this article is that we, particularly as women, learn to be happier with ourselves and more accepting of who we are — because, frankly, most of us will never be Dickens or Mother Teresa. Yes, we can strive to improve and be better in every aspect of our lives, but tearing ourselves down where we fall short through such comparisons can lead to a life of unhappiness. Comparing with others in matters of personal worth is never a positive thing, but something we all fall victim to at one point or another. Thank you for your words of wisdom, Sara. You take very real topics and address them in a way that helps all of us to remember just how worthwhile we are and how we are all in this together.

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