Since launching You Me Serendipity a few months ago I have been excited about holding myself accountable to this idea of subjective perfection. For the most part I think I've done relatively well! I've shared some of the highlights from our wedding and how they led to a celebration that was perfect for us, I've jumped into building and exploring self-confidence with the Becoming Confident Series, I've shared my goals for 2016 and how I have and have not achieved them so far, and I've shared with you a little bit about how we choose to approach dating as newlyweds.
One of the major themes in my first post was how challenging comparisons can be and I haven't yet explored this issue. This is, in part, because I have been afraid to admit to you how much I compare myself to others - even when I know it isn't productive. I felt that before I shared these issues I should get rid of them entirely. What I've realized is that by not sharing this struggle I hold myself to a standard that isn't my own. So, with a little bit of fear, a little bit of vulnerability, and a little bit of courage, I'll share with you my challenges with comparison.
When comparison begins...
Self-doubt is, for me, the fertilizer of comparison. It doesn't matter where I am, who I'm with, or what else has happened to me that day - when I begin to have self-doubt the comparisons are not far behind. These doubts surface most often when I notice that what I have and what I want are not aligned. With this misalignment I begin to wonder if I'll ever be able to achieve what I want; that is where the doubt latches on and begins to feed comparisons.
As with other women I know I remember beginning to compare myself to others during middle school. My body image issues also started around this time and, in my case, one would quite often encourage the other. The more I compared my body to others the more self-conscious I became. The more self-conscious I became the more I continued to compare myself to others.
As I have gotten older I've extended the areas in which those comparisons exist. As an adult I'm thinking less about body image (although it is still there) and more about markers of success in life. Before I met Kurt I would compare myself to my friends who were in relationships and were maybe engaged or married already. Now that I am married I'm comparing myself against those friends who have purchased a house, have started a family, or seem to have a large circle of friends.
Often with each comparison I make I come to the conclusion that because I don't have this one thing that someone else has I am "less" than they are. This is an unhealthy mental pattern that I am trying very hard to interrupt.
What's on my comparison list most often...
These moments seem to originate in the areas of my personal life where I feel like others are "ahead" of me. I know that it is ridiculous but sometimes I get stuck in viewing my life as a race and the people who are in my life are running it with me. Some of them are miles ahead of where I am and I just cannot keep up. Blame it on the little bit of competitive drive I have or blame it on general insecurities, it's a thought pattern that happens.
When I compare myself to others I'm often saying these things over and over again:
- Why haven't Kurt and I bought a house yet?
- Why haven't Kurt and I started a family yet?
- Why don't Kurt and I have friends that we can do stuff with here in Tallahassee?
- I often go to Pure Barre classes or workout the majority of days in a week. Why don't I look like [insert name here]?
Do you see the pattern? Through the act of comparing I'm minimizing myself and what I already have because it doesn't line up with what others have. I'm sure that if you were to ask your best friend, your sister, or your coworker they would say the same thing - they compare themselves to other people and often find that they feel "lesser-than" because they don't have what someone else does.
Challenging the comparisons...
Sometimes Kurt or my mom or my best friend will catch me in these comparisons and shake up my perspective, flipping those thoughts to reveal something positive about my life. When I can arrest the comparisons and flip them, they look more like this:
- After moving twice in Tallahassee, Kurt and I are finally in an apartment that suits our needs well and feels like a home.
- Our dog Sydney brings so much joy to our little family of three!
- Our friends may not all be here in Tallahassee, but by scheduling regular calls and visiting when we can it makes the distance feel much shorter.
- Going to Pure Barre classes and working out the majority of days in a week has me feeling stronger than I've ever have before.
One thing of which I am very cognizant when attempting a perspective shift is to not put someone else down. I think that is really important; I don't want to think negatively of others just because I'm feeling momentarily insufficient. It's in these moments that I try to return to subjective perfection and remember that my version of perfect is exactly that: my own.
Overcoming the challenge of comparisons is a real part of my life. It may not happen daily but it happens often enough that I try to be aware of those thoughts that might trigger self-doubt and comparison patterns. By leaning on my support network and having the courage to be vulnerable I'm able to weed out these moments that impact my happiness.
How are you impacted by comparisons? What tricks or tips have you identified to help break those thought patterns? In which areas do you struggle? I'd love to hear more about your experiences in the comments!