I want to use this blog as a platform to talk about something I know a lot of people struggle with: comparing themselves with others.
I am not what you would call a competitive person. I hate sports. I hate contests. Gym class was a nightmare because I was always picked next to last because I was terrible at everything and terrified of being laughed at when I missed the ball. I hate being the center of attention and I cringe at the thought of being judged by my peers. - Something I have definitely had to overcome as an author. But none of that compares to having to face my biggest critic:
As if the world wasn't harsh enough, I sometimes find myself going through Pinterest and Facebook picking out fancy snapshots and glittering posts about someone's shining accomplishment and perfect life. My self worth is tainted by thoughts like:
"That girl you went to school with is already a stay at home mom with a huge house that always looks tidy. Why is your house so messy all the time?"
"Jane is on her third baby and just got her Masters. Why aren't you in school? You're so lazy. You should at least have another baby."
"The Kinnley's are on vacation in Hawaii. You will never be able to afford that because you live paycheck to paycheck and always will."
"Suzie is always posting pictures of the cool places she takes her kids. You aren't a good mother because you don't take your daughter somewhere fun everyday. You don't spend enough time with your kid."
"So-and-so wrote a book and it was in stores a year later. You can't even write one novel in a year."
"This indie author got a movie deal just weeks after he published his book, while you just suck at life in general."
You get the idea. What's scary is that these people are my friends! (mostly) People I care about. This kind of thinking not only destroys my own self-esteem, but also the relationships I have with these friends. Self loathing turns to jealously very quickly. And then, not only am I down on myself, but lonely as well. And I have no one to blame, but me.
Should I be mad at the Kinnley's because they worked hard saved for two years in order to enjoy a beautiful vacation with each other? Ridiculous right? Should I really be jealous of the author's movie deal? Maybe. ;) But will it in any way effect my own chances of success? Of course not.
This kind of negative thinking can also go the other way. I used to say I loved shows like Teen Mom because the teens made me feel better about my life and the choices I have made. But is it really fair for me to sit back and judge anyone? Do I really have the right to look at someone elses life, someone who is struggling and down on their luck, and say I am better than them? No way. I certainly don't want someone thinking that about what I present to the world, so why should I?
For as much as you compare yourself to other people, there are others who are comparing themselves to the things you have. I can't tell you how many times I've been jealous of a friend who seemed to have it all, only to turn around and find out they most certainly didn't have it all, and were jealous of something I had all along. That's a very humbling experience and will definitely make you grateful for what you have.
Over the last few years I had felt that I had gotten this urge under control with the help of medication and changing my thinking habits. I may have been wrong. Just recently, it has slowly resurfaced with the release of my book and the birth of my daughter. It is hard not to compare yourself to others in your profession once in a while, but something I never, EVER wanted to happen was to compare my kid to someone elses. But that's exactly what's happened lately.
At 15 months, we have been working diligently on her speech, but she still won't utter a word. When we encourage her to ask for her cup, for instance, she will either just moan or laugh at us. (little stinker) This never really bothered me until I saw a few of the other little kids younger than her babbling on, and when I saw a facebook video of a friend's 16 month old that is practically ready to finish writing her dissertation. I immediately started thinking there may be something wrong with my child, even though the doctor has assured me she is healthy and bright. I just need to remember my daughter is independent and does things when she is good and ready.
I believe this kind of thinking destroyed my chance of happiness and "blooming" for many years. I certainly don't want that to happen to my child. I don't want her to ever think this way and the best way for me to teach her is to not practice this way of thinking myself. It's hard, but if you remember what is important and focus on YOUR life, you won't have time to worry about what other people are doing.
Some Things That Have Helped Me:
1. Counting my blessings
Some people may not think I have much, but I know that I have a lot of things others struggle to find. I have a beautiful family, an amazing daughter, and a hard working, faithful, loving husband. I have awesome friends and all the comforts and joys of advanced technology at my finger tips. The list goes on and on. And on. I start out the day thanking God for all of these things, ponder them at night, and remind myself of them through out the day as needed. This practice is a powerful tool that helps me become a happy person.
2. Just being a mommy
I always joke that I'm going to get in a car accident someday because I can't take my eyes off my cute daughter and pay attention to the road. It is the same in everyday life. I LOVE being her mom. When I'm taking care of her I don't have much time to worry about what that little voice says I should be doing instead. She is my whole world, and with that mentality, there isn't much room for comparison and negativity.
Not everybody needs it, but for someone with a chemical imbalance in their brain, it really helps mediate my thoughts and emotions. I take Prozac for anxiety and depression. Without it, I can go from zero to "apocalypse" in about 4 seconds flat. The medication helps me process problems in a calm manner, and helps me to see things more rationally and logically. I notice that when I am on Prozac there is less of a chance of a friend's photograph of their new house screaming at me that I am a failure.
4. Find the bright side.
There are very few situations I've found that you can't find something positive to focus on. Gotta work late? That overtime is going to be nice on the next paycheck. What should I spend it on?? Stuck in traffic? Might as well enjoy the music on the radio and daydream. Focusing on the positive is just another technique to shut out negative thinking, and, it works wonders.
5. Take a Facebook break.
There are days when social media just gets too overwhelming for my mental health and I just have to check out. I think this is a good practice for anyone really, even if you're not suffering from Comparison Syndrome. Get offline and into the real world for a while. Have lunch with a friend. Take a bubble bath. Go for a walk and talk with your neighbors or just walk in the woods, alone if you can. Spend some time in isolation if you have to, gather your thoughts, and get back to what makes you you.
More often than not, it's sitting down and actually writing that pulls me out of my funk. Whether I'm editing of writing something new, I'm able to go into my own world, with characters I "know" and I feel like I belong there. While I'm not a bestselling author, I believe it's safe to say I'm good at it, and by doing something I'm good at, I feel good about myself. Some people find solace in cooking, knitting, or sudoku. It doesn't have to be creative, but definitely make time for the things you are passionate about. It will enrich your life SO much.
The bottom line is, everyone is good at something. We were designed that way. The world would be very boring if there were only one singer, one fashion designer, one photographer, one blogger. Find out what you're good at, what you love, and bless the world with your beauty. Who cares if the flower next to yours is taller or smells stronger? Your flower is a gift to the world and to hide it away only deprives the world of beauty. Don't waste your life and your talents wishing you were someone else. Use the time you have on this earth to bloom as big as you can and bless those around you.