This is the second post in The Year of the Quitter, a five-part series on how quitting paved the way to better living for me in 2018. On Dec. 3, I discussed self-sabotage. Today, we talk comparison.
Comparison is a relentless bully and this is the year I finally stood up and said enough was enough. I know, it’s a bold statement. Our society is driven by comparison. We spend millions each year as we strive for ideals we observe in others. We want to be thinner, richer, stronger and younger. If we can’t become it, we try to fake it. Why is that? Why do we allow the gifts of someone else to rob us from satisfaction in who we are?
I don’t have that answer but I know I’ve been guilty of it, especially when it comes to my roles as a wife and mom. I would look at others and wonder why I couldn’t be more like them. I went through a phase when my oldest was a toddler when I made my own bread. It was a practical decision. Finances and the limitations of being a single-car family required careful thought and planning to go the grocery store. Making my own bread brought peace of mind. I could whip up a batch whenever needed.
My favorite method came from a woman in the mothering group I attended, but she took the process a step further. She bought hard wheat and ground it herself to make flour for her bread. To me, buying flour at the store meant my bread wasn’t really homemade, not like hers. She ground her own wheat. If you said that to her, she’d blow it off and say that she just got a great deal on the wheat.
Let’s recap: The mom in the group buying her bread at the store was thinking she didn’t measure up because she didn’t make her own bread like I did. I thought I didn’t measure up because I didn’t grind my own wheat like my friend. And my friend didn’t think she measured up because she didn’t grow her own wheat.
How insane is that? Here, the three of us were feeding our families and feeling guilty because by comparison, we thought someone else did it better.
Have you ever been there? Maybe it’s not bread for you. Maybe it’s baby food. Maybe you work outside of the home and send your kids to public school while your neighbor is a homemaker who homeschools. Maybe you’re a size 16 and your friend is a 6 or you’re built like a fishing rod while your friend has curves that require caution signs. No matter what, it’s something. If we look hard enough, we will always find a way to not measure up.
Comparison is a thief of joy. It breeds unrealistic expectations and blocks our ability to have authentic relationships with those around us. If we’re preoccupied with comparison, we can’t be fully present.
But I have good news. We don’t have to let comparison rule our hearts or our minds. We can stand up and opt out. This is the year I did that. I embraced who I am and who I am meant to be. No more apologies for what I thought I wasn’t and the effect has been dramatic. I’m a better friend because I’m clear on my gifts and I appreciate those whose gifts are different. I’m really good at face time with others, but I love that I have friends gifted at mailing handmade handwritten cards and other friends gifted at phone calls. It makes for richer relationships and tighter bonds.
What about you? What are your gifts that you and you alone bring to the table in your relationships? What makes them valuable? What would your relationships look like if you focused on your gifts rather than your limitations? Let me know in the comments below.
Tonya Kubo is co-director of the Clutter Free Academy Facebook group, founded by author/speaker Kathi Lipp and based on her best-selling book, Clutter Free. Tonya and her husband, Brian, are raising two spirited girls in the agricultural heart of California. By day, she cultivates community in digital spaces for a public university. At night, you can find her either cooking, cuddling or helping others to fight the demons of comparison, clutter and compulsion.