I’ve read a few pieces on other people’s blogs recently about this topic and, as I have a terrible habit of comparing myself to others, I’ve been working hard to take on board any advice that’s been offered as an antidote. Having said that, I can’t help but feel that this is easier said than done and I’m still wondering if it’s worth re-titling this whole piece to Why I’m trying to no longer compare myself to other people!! Whatever the title, I thought perhaps it was worth writing down why I, personally, am trying to break this nasty habit.
The other day I was in the supermarket when I overheard two people deep in discussion about their children. I can’t remember the conversation verbatim, but it went a little bit like this:
Man: “My daughter’s forty now. She earns a hundred thousand pounds a year. At Christmas she got a twenty thousand pound bonus…”
Woman: “My daughter’s an optician. They’ve always earned good money, opticians. She’s doing very well for herself.”
Their chat carried on like this for a while. One would comment on their child’s achievements and the other would try and match it or attempt to better it, like some weird game of offspring Top Trumps. As I left (there’s only so long you can reasonably linger in the fruit and veg aisle), they were boasting about the number of grandchildren they each had (seven and nine respectively) and I couldn’t help but think how incredibly sad it was that their children’s lives had been reduced to a handful of numbers.
Perhaps you think I’m being a little cynical. You could say that these were just proud parents and I’m sure you’d be right, but I guess it was their tone that irked me somewhat, the eagerness with which they played their hand (if you’re still understanding the Top Trumps analogy).
In the social media age, it’s easy for us all to compare ourselves with our friends/relatives/strangers on Instagram. Online, we showcase the parts of our lives that we want others to see and whilst there are some people out there offering up more realistic versions of themselves, most posts on Facebook or Instagram still tend to be of happier, more celebratory experiences.
I left the supermarket that day feeling incredibly deflated. If, in the twenty-first century, we’re more likely to find ourselves comparing ourselves to our peers (thanks, social media!), then how depressing is it to realise that potentially we’re not the only ones doing it? Perhaps our parents and wider relatives are busy comparing us to others too.
That got me thinking about my own child, about the conversations I’ve had with other mums over the usual toddler-related developments and I began to worry that I’m already falling into the comparison trap here as well. What if my child is picking up on the fact that walking and talking, eating and sleeping are all milestones that are (unintentionally) monitored against the speed at which other boys and girls are reaching them. What if this ultimately makes my little one feel unworthy or inadequate as they get older?
A little competition is healthy, of course, but the pressure that comes from constant comparison can have a serious impact on our mental health and if that comparison is coming from a parent (whether it’s intentional or not) it can leave us feeling as if those that we trusted are having just as detrimental an impact on our own self-worth as the ‘perfect’ images we constantly see on social media.
As much as I don’t want to find out that my parents are comparing me to their friends’ kids, I definitely don’t want to be the cause of my own child’s potentially harmful relationship with comparison. For that reason, I’m starting with myself – if I can stop wondering why I don’t have what my friends’ have (beating myself up over why I don’t have as big a house or as high-paying a job), if I can instead be happy with my own achievements, then perhaps I won’t pass this bad habit down to my child and perhaps then you won’t find me in the fruit and veg aisle at Tesco in twenty year’s time playing offspring Top Trumps.
What about you? Do you compare yourself to others? Do you have any tips to help combat this? I’d love to know what you think!
📷: Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash – I’ve broken my photo pledge already!! My camera is broken (poor excuse, I know!) and my phone camera really isn’t up to scratch. As soon as it’s fixed all pics will be my own again – I promise!!