Is it just me, or has this culture of comparison we’ve created seemed out of control lately?
I first noticed this phenomenon when a friend was planning a birthday party for her toddler. We were talking about decorations and she said, “You know, there’s a lot of pressure when you’re planning a two-year-old’s birthday party, what with Pinterest and everything.”
She said it jokingly, but I knew there was an element of truth in it.
I didn’t realize how bad it was until I started seeing other friends who have kids posting links to articles about not feeling like a bad mom because you didn’t send homemade valentines to your child’s class or that you didn’t sew all of his baby clothes into a quilt or that you had an epidural and gave birth lying down.
Wait, what? Can we have a moment of silence in remembrance of sanity?
I don’t have kids of my own, so I’ve been observing this motherhood comparison from the outside. It saddens me. Parenting is stressful enough; do we really need to add an element of comparison? And it isn’t limited to parenting; we’re tempted to compare our homes, our lifestyles, even ourselves.
I’m tempted to blame social networking–I mean, we didn’t have public records of two-year-old’s birthday parties before Pinterest and Facebook, did we?–but that isn’t really to blame.
We’ve created this culture. Every time we compare ourselves to someone else, we’re adding to the problem. Not only do we feel badly about ourselves, we also make the problem worse simply by keeping it around.
Comparison often leads to another negative experience we’ve created for ourselves: competition. As soon as we get wrapped up in comparing ourselves to others, we start falling down that slippery slope to competition.
Once we start competing with one another, whether it be for nicest home, best family photographs, or prettiest blog, we lose the point of those things in our lives.
Your home is supposed to be where you relax, where you feel safest and coziest, where you surround yourself with people and items that restore you and bring out the best in you. Your home is where you should be able to escape from the outside world, not compare yourself to it. But don’t we often feel as though it should be a page out of a Pottery Barn catalog, Instagrammed for the world to admire?
Your family photographs are meant to help you remember important times in your family’s life together. Your kids should be able to look at these pictures when they’re older and see what they looked like–and you looked like!–years ago. You should look at these pictures and feel joy and nostalgia, not worry about the lighting or that your teeth weren’t white enough. But don’t we feel inclined to hire photographers who will fix all our blemishes and flyaways, leaving our Facebook friends wondering how we manage to look so perfect?
And your blog? What is it meant to be? Well, that’s up to you! One of my favorite things about reading the blogs I read is that they are all true, genuine reflections of the people who write them. I’m pretty selective when it comes to blog-reading, mostly because I have a limited amount of time for this activity, and the blogs I read are the ones that seem real to me, not the ones that seem too put-on or “for show” (and I have a sneaking suspicion that many of those may exist because their writers feel like less than enough, which hurts my heart).
Once we start making our homes look like Pinterest project museums and thinking about our family photographs in terms of what we’ll include on a Christmas card, we’re missing the point. And once our blogs become less about what we value and more about what we think will bring readers and income, we’re underestimating ourselves and our stories.
So if you’ve been caught in the spiral of comparison and competition, free yourself from it. Just free yourself. Avoid what you feel inclined to compare yourself to and start doing what you can to appreciate what you have. My biggest aid in this is gratitude journaling, but I’m curious to hear what works for you, so please share.
And how about this: how about we pledge to end this culture we’ve created? Sure, each of us is just one person, but if one person at a time decides to stop comparing and competing–and to stop the showing-off that often stems from that–we can end this. Are you up for it?