The trap of comparison

For a long time, concern was my default reaction to just about everything. While I love adventure and am fueled by relationships, I entered into most new experiences with some hesitation and a good amount of risk assessment. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t do so productively via research and logic. Instead, I let my imagination run wild with everything that could have gone catastrophically wrong, or everything I was already doing wrong, until I convinced myself something terrible and uncontrollable likely would happen… and if the situation was already doomed, I might as well take the risk anyway.

This posture of concern made me feel inadequate and caused me to focus heavily on my perceived shortcomings.

I based my worth on others’ definition of success, was caught up in the most material representations of achievement and truly never stopped looking at myself outside of how I measured up to others. I felt judged and hesitant only because I was heavily judging myself.

Earlier this year, I began to fall back into the draining trap of comparison. What started as disappointment about something as asinine as homeownership spiraled into months-long feelings of failure. At the perfect moment, however, I attended a workshop focused on women’s wellness and was prompted with the question.

“What would a wise and content version of you at the end of your life say to you about your current self?”

I immediately thought about my base of worry and comparison, and it turns out, elderly me was a mildly inappropriate straight shooter. With great clarity, I heard her say,

“One day you’ll die, and none of this shit will have mattered.”

I laughed at the ridiculousness of my reaction, but quickly felt the impact of the exercise.

This question helped me dig my values out of a pile of comparison rubble, and I opened my eyes to see that I am already loved and cared for based on things that truly matter. Every single detail I hope will define me at the end of my life is already solid. My faith, my family, and my relationships work together in a beautiful rhythm, even on the hardest days. The material benchmarks I’d been placing so much weight in were actually meaningless. They said nothing of my character or love for others. They gave no indication to my relationship with my husband, daughter, or community. They weren’t benchmarks at all – they were simply extra. In focusing on my superficial shortcomings or the impending doom of a situation, I saw life through a lens of deficiency rather than gratitude. While I know falling into comparison is part of the human experience, I can firmly say I don’t value anything I was longing for, and I don’t want to be defined by anything I felt I lacked.

In motherhood, comparison and perceived failure runs rampant. Sure, I could always be a better mother, but what that looks like in practice is more patience, more compassion, more love for myself and quite simply – believing the things I tell my daughter and living accordingly. Every day I drop her off at school and tell her to “have fun and be kind.” In the end, I pray that the people around her will have been examples of unconditional love and unmatched joy; and most importantly, that she will be a shining light in a dark world – which doesn’t require more things at all.

Featured Image: Leah Muse Photography

Post Author
Jessie Collins
We often refer to parenthood as the "most" in our house. It's the most rewarding, most gratifying, most difficult, most terrifying, most fulfilling adventure we've ever known. The details change daily, but parenthood is consistently the most everything. These new experiences started the minute we met our first daughter, and nothing could have prepared me for the ways in which I'd need support once I became a mother (twice over!). So now, I write to create community, to give other women a voice and to offer support through the constant mosts of motherhood.