You see her on Facebook—that acquaintance from high school who has perfect, professional, smiling photos of her kids for each major holiday. You can’t afford professional photographs and your daughter’s smile always seems to disappear when there’s a camera pointed in her direction.
You see her at the mommy and me playdate—she talks about how awesome her job is and how great of a relationship she and her husband have, and how well her 6 month old is sleeping through the night. You come home exhausted from work, too tired to give your husband the attention he deserves, and your 10 month old is still not sleeping through the night.
You see her on your favorite blog. It seems that every meal she serves is made from scratch with organic, locally-sourced ingredients. She creates a perfectly-executed Pinterest project with her kids at least once a day and manages to post flawless beauty and style secrets on her YouTube channel. Oh and she’s making six figures off sponsored posts, original products, and affiliate sales. You, on the other hand, are happy if you manage to get a serving from each of the major food groups into one meal. Your last Pinterest project involved your toddler eating the dry rice you had just colored blue for the “discovery jar,” inducing panic for you and giggles for her. You are lucky if you get to take a shower alone, much less have time to flat iron curl your hair and apply cat-eyes. Oh and let’s just say your blog isn’t there yet.
We all compare ourselves, even when we start out the day intending not to, but I want you to make a point this Mother’s Day to consider that the only person you can fairly compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday, last week, last month, last year. There really is no point in comparing yourself to anyone else, because they did not have the same life experiences as you.
Consider the Invisible Intricacies
Maybe that acquaintance from high school has a friend that’s a photographer who takes those photos for free and happens to be amazing at getting kids to smile.
Perhaps that the mom at the playdate and the mom with the blog might be presenting an idealized version of their lives? When we can edit what the world sees, we often do. Hello Instagram filters. Or maybe they’ve started gratitude journals and are seeing things in a new, more positive perspective. No one’s life is this perfect, but sometimes it can seem that way if you have the right mindset. Oh and the kid sleeping through the night? She just got lucky on that one.
The truth is that we all have back stories. There invisible intricacies within everyone around us. A woman who keeps an impeccable house probably had a mom who taught her how to stay organized and create a cleaning routine. I struggle with this because my mom never taught me how to run a house. She was too busy and stressed working 70+ hours a week and owning a business. So that’s what she taught me instead: how to be driven and motivated to succeed at something you’re passionate about. Another woman might look at me and be jealous of that. She might unfairly compare herself to me. But remember, as Brenda Ueland says, “Since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of Time, you are incomparable.”
Avoid Negative Self-talk
In fact, when you compare yourself to others, it’s actually pretty mean. Not to them, but to you. Iyanla Vanzant says, “Comparison is an act of violence against the self.” That comparison often turns into a form of negative self-talk. And that way of thinking is even correlated to bigger mental health issues. “Researchers studying the thinking patterns of people with clinical levels of depression find that their self-talk tends toward frequently and relentless form of destructive self-talk” (Whitbourne, 2013).
The solution to turning around a habit of negative self-talk and comparison? Gratitude. Actually, “people who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems” (Carpenter, 2016). Sounds pretty good to me. Some people take time each morning or each night to write in a gratitude journal, add notes to a gratitude/happiness jar, or take a few minutes to give a thankful prayer. Personally, I use an app called Grid Diary, where I can type up my own template of questions or choose from pre-written ones to use daily. Here is mine:
So this Mother’s Day, make it a point to start a gratitude habit. Let’s start here:
What are you thankful for today?