"Comparison is the thief of joy"
Have you ever listened a song, that you've heard a million times, but it suddenly means something so different to you, because it's what you needed in that season of life?
It could be the same with a book or a quote... but the point is, this is what I needed to hear. I've heard it my whole life, but it really struck a chord with me this time.
It's so hard (for me personally) to not compare myself to others. I could go on about how society makes us that way and blah blah blah.... but the truth is, it's a bad habit I've always had. And one that, now that I'm a mom, I really want to break.
Nothing makes you want to self improve (FOR REALS) like having a daughter who will look up to you and mimic your good and bad habits someday. I want this little girl to have the best possible chance in life. And to hopefully need minimal therapy as an adult.
When we were TTC (trying to conceive), I found myself comparing my journey to women who got pregnant easier than I did. When I got pregnant, I would compare myself to easier pregnancies, or women who had perfect round bumps, or who just loved being pregnant (because as you know, I did not).
After I had my daughter, I found myself comparing my postpartum body, my breastfeeding journey, my ACTUAL BABY to others. And that last part brings on some real mom-guilt, trust me. We had a very rocky 4th trimester, and I would see moms and babies the same age that could go and do whatever, when I literally couldn't take my baby anywhere because she was so fussy all the time. I wanted a social life, I wanted to show off my baby, I wanted a HAPPY baby. And I found myself comparing and getting jealous of any other life that wasn't my own.
You really do lose your joy.
I had no joy in the long, stressful journey of TTC. I had absolutely NO joy for most of my pregnancy. And for the first three months of Eliana's life, I didn't have much joy.
To be fair to myself, I was so deep in my postpartum depression those first 3 months for many reasons, and sometimes no reason at all, but those 3 months are a blur. Partly becse of sleep deprivation, but also because I was just trying to keep my daughter and myself alive, and that was it. But as I'm coming out of it and reflecting, I am realizing what definitely DID NOT help. And comparison was a big factor that ate me up inside.
And I don't want to miss out on another joyful moment of motherhood.
Of course, instant access to social media and strangers "perfect" lives DOESN'T HELP this self-destructive act. But at the same time, I'm choosing to have an Instagram account, I'm choosing to scroll through Pinterest when I need to zone out before bed. And I'm choosing to have a career that depends highly on social media. But these perfect-looking lives are at our fingertips, they're everywhere. Of course you can't blame them- not many people want to post pictures of a breastmilk stained shirt or a baby's weekly blowout.
Now obviously, to just quit comparing yourself to others isn't just something you do overnight. Like any other bad habit, you make a conscious and consistent effort to put an end to it. I mean, I've spent the better part of the last 28 years comparing myself to others.
I don't want to miss a single moment of raising my daughter, and I especially don't want to miss a thing because I'm comparing my behind-the-scenes to someone's highlight reel.
So here are 3 things I've been doing to break this toxic habit.
*note: I am not a therapist or doctor or anything fancy whatsoever.
**But I have read about a million self-help books (I'm not kidding). So take my advice with a grain of salt and a tiny bit of humor.
This is a big one. I heard this tip on a podcast about 6 months ago and it really stuck with me in the back of my head.
And there's a few ways you can go about this.
One example would be to unfollow someone on social media that triggers a negative response within yourself. Whether it's comparison or jealousy. But we're often afraid to do it for fear of hurting someone's feelings. "They'll know I unfollowed them". Well, if they have an app that tells them, they might. Or if you decide to follow them again, that will make it obvious. But it's not about a stranger or even a friend with a seemingly perfect life. It's about you, your mental health, and avoiding triggers while you work on this addicting self destructive habit. And it doesn't have to be forever. Just until those triggers have subsided.
Another way to avoid triggers is to spend less time on social media, and really focus on being in the now. Allowing yourself just 10 minutes or so a day to check your social media accounts, giving you enough time to respond to emails or upload pictures of your kids for your family to see. Set a timer, and that's that. You could even delete the social media apps from your phone, and go old-school by only checking your email and social media by getting on your lap/desktop.
Comparing your insides to someone else's outsides
Obviously, most people only want to show their best selves. Whether it's in person or online. We want to share our nice vacation pictures instead of our messy office desk. We want to share our baby's cute outfit before she spits up all over it. We want to show the world the good, the pretty, the exciting, the perfect. We don't want to admit that we also have the mess, the stress, and the brokenness.
For example. We, as a culture, like pretty pictures. We are drawn to pretty colors and symmetry and balance. We want to see clear, good quality pictures. That's just the way it is. We want to feel something when we look at a picture. But for people like us, most of the time that feeling ends up being self loathing or maybe even jealousy.
But we also know that's not what that person's life really looks like. Yet, we still find ourselves trying to be perfect, too. I'm guilty of it, I'll admit. I make sure my dirty kitchen isn't in the Instagram Stories shot, or I'll clean off one part of my counter for a food blog post (you should see whats not in the frame!) But there it is, you wouldn't want to try out a new recipe if there was a mess in the background of all the pictures.
We have to remember that just because someone isn't showing their behind-the-scenes, definitely doesn't mean that it's not there. It totally is. Just because another momma only posts pictures of a happy baby, doesn't mean she hasn't spent hours consoling a crying screaming baby. Or that the teething fairy hasn't been in her house. Or that her nipples haven't been raw at some point. Or that she hasn't had to scrub her toddlers crayon off the perfectly white furniture at least a few times. Or that sometimes she wishes she could run away.
Or maybe none of those things. But you get the idea. We all want to hide our dirt, our shame, or imperfections. But we all have it.
Oh and that model that lives in Bali and gets free bikinis and eats food without getting fat and walks the runway... well that's probably true but find comfort in that they are human and they probably have to take anxiety meds to function like the rest of us.
Being consciously grateful. Every day.
And I mean, EVERY. DAY.
Let me repeat that again. I only notice a difference when I actually do this every day. When you are grateful for what you have and can be grateful consistently, it's almost impossible to wish you had what someone else has.
If you are so grateful for your house, you might not feel jealous or less than when you drive past your neighbors house. If you are grateful for your body and all that it has done and can do- you might not compare it to someone else's body. When you are so grateful for your LIFE, how can you have room to long for someone else's?
Something I've been doing is writing just 3 things I'm grateful for, every day. I personally do this before bed, and you could totally do more than 3. But I find that 3 is a good starting number... after all, we're in a mindset right now of NOT being consciously grateful... so it's surprisingly hard to think of stuff at first. And we don't want to get discouraged right off the bat.
I encourage you to do this for 30 days. One whole month, and see how it transforms your way of thinking.
A little bonus tip: "You Are Enough"
This is hands down one of my favorite things to do for myself when I'm feeling depressed or less than. I take a dry erase marker (or you could use lipstick if you wanna add some flare) and I write on the bathroom mirror: "YOU ARE ENOUGH". Paste it on every mirror if you want to. Cover every surface of your house in sticky notes. Tell yourself YOU ARE ENOUGH. Over and over. And you will start to believe it. And it will change your life.
I've noticed such difference in my life the last month of incorporating these new habits. The fog is lifting, my depression isn't as bad as it was (I daresay it's almost gone for the moment). I'm gaining my confidence back as a woman, and finally finding it as a mother.
Let me know in the comments what helps you, what you struggle with, or if you've practiced any of these habits!
Go Bravely, Mommas.