Don't compare your insides to someone else's outsides.
She guided us through a series of photos that she had created into a PowerPoint presentation — beautiful, professionally taken photographs of various groupings of her own immediate family members — and proceded to tell us each photo's backstory. So-and-so was good looking, yes, but he was also struggling with XYZ. She's beautiful, but what you don't know is that such-and-such tragedy just occurred, and we were all fighting back tears that day. Story after story included bits of sadness, difficulty and lifestyle roadblocks.
But you'd never know that if you just looked at the photos and admired the landscape behind them, their spiffy clothes and cute jewelry, and of course the big smiles and shiny bright eyes.
You might otherwise have looked at those photos and thought, I want a big family like that. But we can't afford any more kids. That is, if I could even get pregnant.
You may be thinking, That's a really cute statement necklace. Probably cost hundreds of dollars. I'll never be able to afford nice things like that.
As we sat around our MOPS tables that morning, lots of us were probably saying to ourselves something like this: Wow, they must all get along great. I couldn't get the whole family together for pictures like that if you paid me.
This is the next Identified Feeling: Assuming that "they" are better than you, they have more money than you, they're more in love than you, their kids are more well behaved, they eat better, dress better, have more friends and have a bigger...nicer...cleaner house.
(Did I cover everything? Good.)
I'm beginning to realize there are a lot of quotes I really love, like this one, which relates, and which I'm pretty sure I've referred to before: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Ain't that the truth. And yet we compare ourselves to others all day long — hair styles, taste in shoes, weight, makeup application, job status, cleanliness, attendance at church, relationships with friends. I know there are people out there on the opposite end of the spectrum, the egotistical kind who actually do think they're better than everyone else, but I'd argue that they're fewer and farther between (and that's because most of them probably just act that way because deep down inside they actually fear that they're INferior to everyone else). Call it jealousy, envy or insecurity; it's all the same thing — it's very easy to get stuck in a place of lack and imagine all the joy, sparkle, unicorns and rainbows in Other Peoples' Lives. (For those of you who follow me on Facebook, yes, I still want to write a book by that name.) But does that serve us in ANY productive or helpful way? Doesn't it only serve to reinforce the poor me, pity me mentality that just keeps us small and unbelieving in our full potential?
This isn't even one of the options I had originally come up with to combat these negative thought patterns I'm working on, but it hit me today, as these things often do, that the way to handle this feeling of inferiority is to compliment someone else, be kind to someone you're envious of or give that person a pat on the back for being who they are, or for whatever you're jealous of, whatever you wish you had or did or think you can't do. The best way to get out of a slump is ALWAYS to be of service in some way, hands down, no doubt.
When you're stuck in a moment of comparing your mom skills to someone else's as she wrangles her three kids with ease and grace and you can barely keep the puffs picked up off the floor, as hard as it may sound, say something nice. Tell her she makes it look so easy. Tell her her kids are angels.
When you find yourself envious of your neighbor and his iPhone, iPad and iPad mini, get on iTunes and gift him your favorite app. Send a link to your favorite Podcast. Find some way to pay it forward rather than taking a step back and retreating into Lack.
The next time you are sizing up a couple at the next table over during dinner out, assuming they have a better love life, smoother communication and super-successful kids, stop yourself short — as quickly as possible — and if you can, ask the waiter to put their drinks on your bill. If that's not an option, tell them what a cute couple they are on the way out of the restaurant. Buy them dessert, pray for them, whatever you can muster up. For no one knows from the outside what's really going on on the inside. There's just no way to tell.
All it takes is one small act of kindness (I specifically didn't call it "random" because that phrase is so overused it's lost its punch these days) to lift your spirits and change your thinking from comparisons and being stuck to walking on air, smiling, feeling good because you did something for someone else.
I can do this. You can do this. And don't go comparing yourself to ME as I write this, thinking I have more time, or more money, or more ideas, clearly, because I wrote this post. Remember why I'm doing this series: Because I am really struggling with all of the negative self-talk I've built up over the years and I literally feel like I'm digging myself out of a giant hole. I'm starting to think I can see ground level, there is light and green grass and sunshine and sky up there, but it's hard and it's a long way up. If I can even just come up with these constructive ways to dig out, trust me, you can put one or two of them in practice. I am just as short on time and energy as the next gal. But I'm also deciding to invest in my health this year, too — both physical and mental.
I have dreams; so do you. We all do. And it's these stupid little thought patterns that crowd out the mental energy we need to progress. To figure out what our core desires really are and to take the appropriate steps to tap into them, ever so slightly, every day.
Stop comparing yourself to your best friend, your sister, the woman in line for coffee. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Your family and friends don't love you because you have a nicer handbag or shinier hair. They just love you because you're you.
Filed under: Chasing peace