Break Comparison and Break Free
The day I became a mother I felt a shift. This amazing transformation of body and spirit and life-giving love birthed my heart, exposing it to the world. She wasn’t supposed to happen. We were told too many times that she would never come.
But there she was wrapped in my arms and I wrapped in her grace – unnaturally confident that I would be enough for her. I tasted for the first time the sweetness of being exactly where I was supposed to be. A strange confidence was born within my wild brokenness; my heart’s scars of self rejection and the tortured psyche of ‘not good enough’ soothed.
Brene Brown says you can either walk inside your story and own it or stand outside of it and hustle for your worthiness. I struggled to believe I had a story worth owning. I would have sold my story for a small price in exchange for someone else’s story.
I believed everyone had a better story. Their lives were more meaningful and influential. They had better stories to tell and more talents to offer. I slid safely under the shadow of whoever was around and secretly compared my perceived insignificance to their presumed superior life. I was on the outside of my life hustling for worthiness.
By the time my daughter was a year old I’d lost the confidence I had when she was born. Drained by comparisons I feared she would learn her worth from me; which is to say she wouldn’t understand her true, inherent value.
When she was fifteen months old I joined a local play gym where I hoped she’d enjoy the other kids and songs and the free play. It was what ‘good’ stay at home moms did – the socializing and all.
But I dreaded those days. My weary spirit could barely tolerate the level of ‘living up to’ that existed there. I entered in shame for all that I wasn’t and I left exhausted from fear of being found out.
If you were more like them you’d be happy. If you looked like her you’d be noticed. If you were better at that you’d have more friends. If you had a nice diaper bag or straighter teeth or better jokes others would love you…
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Theodore Roosevelt
Comparison is a dangerous place to live. It destroys hope, it kills confidence and security, and it steals our ability to be joyful and grateful. It tells us we aren’t good enough, we don’t matter. It creates an alternate reality that the lives of others are easier, happier, and fuller than ours. It removes our capacity for empathy and compassion because we don’t see the struggles or flaws of those we are comparing ourselves against.
Everyone wants to be seen for who they really are. The play gym moms who seemed to have it all, the mom who is going back to work, the girl enslaved to the treadmill, the executive mom who is guilt-ridden for not being at home, the stay at home fourth-time mom who is about lose her mind in clutter and loneliness… to be seen is all anyone really needs.
A couple years and another daughter later I felt a pulling inward. Like my soul was caving in on itself – I had lost myself, the self that existed outside being a mom. Turning my eyes to myself, instead of everyone else, I realized I didn’t know who I was anymore and wondered if I ever did to begin with.
So began the undoing of a lifetime of comparison.
If you are tangled in comparison and feel that your life is inadequate, less than, or is stuck on the outside in a hustle for worthiness, I want to tell you there is a way back into your story – the life with infinite worth that doesn’t depend on what you do or how much you own.
This is how I broke living in comparison and uncovered my best self:
I got rid of the clutter
As a family we began to purge our clutter. We got rid of bags of clothing we didn’t wear or need, we minimized boxes of random things from our pasts, we ransacked the kids’ toy bins and closets; we let go of books, CD’s, DVD’s, outdated electronics; we simplified our kitchen accessories and removed unnecessary furniture around the house.
Creating physical space all throughout our home was the first tangible step for me to undo my belief that what I own is who I am. I made conscious decisions that broke agreements between the value of my stuff and the value of my soul, and I found a wealth of peace in the empty spaces around the house.
Getting rid of my stuff helped me see that none of it mattered; with or without it I was the same.
I took time for myself
With less clutter to distract me I had no choice but to dig in deep to the soul clutter. I wrestled with my beliefs about myself, God, my gifts and talents, my hurts and brokenness. The practice of self love and forgiveness made all the sad things in my heart untrue. Beauty bloomed in my owning my story.
I learned that comparison had made me a people-pleaser, even at the cost of betraying my own needs for the approval of others. As I spent time alone mapping the pathways of my heart I began to accept where it was leading me.
I paid attention to the struggles of others
Nowadays I’m out of the play gym world and into the preschool world. Drop offs and pick-ups used to be torture as I’d place myself safely beneath the ranks of the organic veggie snack packing moms and witty conversationalists.
The more I worked on accepting myself I began investing more in the conversations with these moms. I realized we were more alike than different. They struggled with the same things. They are flawed and beautiful mamas.
Comparison will hi-jack community every single time.
They couldn’t possibly live up to the standard my comparisons set for them. And I’m so grateful for these wonderful and hysterical girls who make motherhood survivable; a gift comparison would have stolen from me.
I focused on gratitude
Ann Voskamp wrote that thanksgiving always precedes the miracle. Undoing self destructive thoughts and crippling comparisons is a miracle. It’s through gratitude we can experience recovery of self.
She also says that gratitude is a prayer of Thy will be done. Lisa Brevere says gratitude makes God enough.
These truths of gratitude released me from trying to control what others thought of me and from the hustle of gaining worth. Gratitude became the best weapon against comparison because it revealed the true value in life.
Comparison defies enough and robs us of gratitude. Gratitude defines enough and frees us from comparison.
That is the miracle.
I replaced the lies with the truth
I changed the conversation with myself. My mom says I changed the tapes in my head.
I started speaking truth out loud to myself when I had a negative thought. I disempowered the lies and told myself a truth instead. When I felt tempted to compare myself, I’d repeat “I’m enough” to myself until I felt it was true.
In my soul was a little girl in need of truth about who she was, much like my daughters are. I knew I’d never let anyone speak to my daughters the way I spoke to the little girl inside of me. And I would never speak to another little girl that way, either. So, with compassion and tenderness that I speak to my five and two year olds, I began a new conversation with myself.
‘You are enough’ became my mantra, and then it became my truth.
I still struggle with comparison. It’s a deep wound that needs constant care. Instead of it powering my life, it hides in the shadows – like I used to. I’m broken open for the world to see – because true joy and peace will never be found in caring what others think.
My best self was always there under the stuff, the expectations, and the comparisons. I’m uncovered and free, walking in and owning my whole story.
And for the record, my best self (and yours) isn’t perfect, isn’t the best we’ll ever be – its fully living within our hearts, in all of our brokenness, flaws, and unique beauty – and being okay.