Monday, September 27, 2010

Dare to {not} Compare...

Okay, I realize this is a silly little illustration, but isn't this what we do to ourselves and each other?  We look at each other and we only see the outside appearances, or what little we think we know about each other.  We start belittling ourselves because we'll never measure up to their standard.  We start resenting the other person because they have everything we want.  Pretty soon we can't appreciate the good things about them OR ourselves because we get so wrapped up in our own little pity party.

There are so many people around me that I admire, people that I wish to emulate.  But I may never be as good a photographer as my brothers or as talented a writer as my husband, my Auntie P., or my best friend Julianne (man, I'm surrounded by amazing writers...).  I may never be as 100% every-moment devoted to my kids as my dear friend Liz, as in tune with the needs of my neighbors as Halaulani or as great an organizer as Evelin.  I will never be a homeschooler like Brianna or as good at healthy, natural living as Chelsea.  I may never be as good a singer as my sister Amy or as patient in trials as my mom or as persevering as my dad.  I have friends who are better crafters, better home decorators, better dressers, better moms, etc.  I could go on and on, really.  But that's okay.  Seeing their incredible qualities gives me something to strive for and work towards, and I know there are things I can do to lift the people around me, too.

You don't have to be the best at something for your qualities and gifts to "count."   It's not a contest or a race, and we don't need to compare ourselves with anyone but ourselves.

Marjorie Hinckley said, "We each do the best we can. My best may not be as good as your best, but it's my best. The fact is that we know when we are doing our best and when we are not. If we are not doing our best, it leaves us with a gnawing hunger and frustration. But when we do our level best, we experience a peace."

Peace.  Wouldn't that be a nice feeling?  But if our heads are stuffed full of comparisons to the people in our neighborhood or at work or on TV, there will be no room in our hearts to experience the peace that she describes.

The problem with comparing ourselves to others -- and make no mistake, we will always be able to find someone that makes us feel inadequate -- is that every comparison plants a little seed of bitterness in our hearts.  We start feeling a sense of injustice.  How many times have you heard yourself think something like "It's not fair" or "I never get to do anything like that" or "How come she can do whatever-it-is?"  You probably don't even realize you're thinking that way until the feeling is firmly rooted, like that darn morning glory weed that keeps trying to take over your garden no matter how many times you pull it up.  Even when you love someone, that little weed of resentment is getting in the way of your relationship.  You start feeling defensive about exactly why you're not measuring up to someone else's standard, which in reality is something you created yourself.  I do this all the time.  When I see my own shortcomings, I automatically start up this whole internal dialogue defending myself against an attack that never actually arrives.  When the house is a mess and my hubby is on his way home from work, my mind starts going: "Well, it was just a crazy day, okay?  The kids were constantly fighting and making me crazy.  I had a bunch of graphic design work that HAD to be done today.  And I'm TIRED, okay?"  Now, let me tell you something -- my husband has never once in our marriage gotten on my case about the state of our house.  (Which is a mercy, because housekeeping is not one of my sterling qualities.)  But because I know I could have done a better job of putting things in order and probably not spent quite so much time on Facebook (which, you'll notice, I didn't admit to in my imaginary defense strategy), I'm all defensive and I start getting mad at Dan because I think he's going to think as badly about me as I do about myself. 

Wow, when I actually type that out, it sounds a little crazy.  But I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who does it.  Maybe you don't do it with quite so much actual talking to yourself, but it's easy to get into that sort of mindset when you start comparing yourself with another person or with what you think are their expectations of you.  It's the perfect example of that "gnawing frustration" described by Marjorie Hinckley in the quote above.

So please, stop comparing yourself to others and imagining up standards you'll never be able to meet.  You can be sure that they have their own list of things they're beating themselves up about.  It can be difficult to hold a mirror up to yourself and try to separate where you're really doing your best and where you're not -- independent of what you think others are doing -- but I think it would be worth it to feel that peace.

P.S.  If you feel others might be uplifted by this post, please feel free to share it wherever you share stuff! (There are buttons below for Facebook, Twitter, etc.)  Thanks!


  1. Tomi, very true, very powerful post. I love the apple/orange thing at the top. It's funny, but even more importantly, true.

  2. I do this all the time. You have such refreshing insight.

  3. Tomi, I used to do that all the time, actually getting in fights with my husband in my head because I was certain he was going to say this for feel that and it wasn't my fault and why couldn't he be more understanding, sheesh! Why couldn't he cut me a little slack! Then, the poor man would walk in the door and get lambasted for what he had no idea. When it started carrying over into my sons, I decided I needed professional help. Never got it, but I'm sure I needed it.

  4. As your hubby I should add that the few times (very few) I have internally been critical of the house being a mess or something I pretty much immediately think "And what have I done to help, hmm?" You do amazing and exceed expectations.

    Love ya!

  5. Loved it Tomi Ann! Thanks for sharing. It's easy to relate to! Great Apple and Orange comparison too!


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