Comparing: we all do it, even though we know we’re not supposed to do it, and then we feel guilty for doing it.
We know we shouldn’t compare our achievements against other people’s since we’re all gifted in different ways. We know we shouldn’t compare ourselves to people who are more successful, because we don’t know what head-start they may have had. We know we shouldn’t compare ourselves to people who are less successful than ourselves because we don’t know how much they have had to overcome. We teach our kids not to compare themselves to their classmates because everyone is special in their own way.
We all know better, and we all do it anyway.
I don’t have some magic formula to share with you today, but I thought I’d share an experience that helped me in this area. I wish I could say it cured me of comparison for good, but alas I remain human. It did, however, put my comparison problem into remission for a very long time, and it’s something I remind myself of when when I catch myself wishing I were living another person’s life.
Years ago, my mom took me and my 2-year-old son to McDonalds. We ate in the glassed-off playplace section so my kiddo could run around freely.
There was only one other family in that area: a mother who was obviously nearing the end of a pregnancy, and her son, who appeared to be the same age as mine. Between munching fries and getting up to tend to our toddlers, this mother and I struck up a casual conversation.
It turned out our boys were the same age; born just a couple days apart, in fact. We commiserated over how crazy the hospital stay was when they were born (our small city hospital was going through a big baby boom at the time), and related to how busy and mischievous each other’s boys were. I noticed how tired she was, nine months pregnant and chasing an active toddler around.
Then without warning, my toddler made a quick dash and escaped out of the playplace. I stood up quickly to give chase, but my mother said, “No, I’ve got this, you rest,” and took over the pursuit.
The other mother watched her go, then said “under her breath”–you know the one–the “I’m pretending to whisper but saying it just loud enough for you to hear me, but not so loud that I can’t pretend you misheard if you call me on it” kind of under her breath:
Wow, must be so nice.
You know what? I get it. I can’t blame her at all for feeling that way. She was tired, her ankles were swollen, her feet were probably killing her, and she had no one to help her. I would feel the exact same way in her shoes.
Here’s the thing: there was a reason that my mom was with me that day to help. There was a reason she didn’t let me get up and run. There was a reason we were out to eat so I didn’t have to cook. There was a reason we were trying to run off all of my son’s energy so he would be tired and go easy on me at bedtime.
It’s because I had just had a miscarriage the night before.
While, at least for a moment, that mom wished she were me, she had no idea how much I wished to be her. What I wouldn’t have given that day to be tired with swollen ankles, achy feet, and a healthy baby in my belly.
Comparison. Jealousy. There’s no point. We all have our stuff.
I think of that day at McDonalds often so I remember to be thankful, remember to be kind, and remember to not waste my time comparing.
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