My mother was a beautiful woman. Exceptionally so. Even today, when I see people who knew her they talk about her beauty.
She died when I was a young girl and my sister and I went to live with her parents. As an adult, I can see that both of my grandparents had a difficult time dealing with the loss of their only daughter and their new roles as parents to their grandchildren.
As a child, I didn’t understand much and when Grandma would compare me to my mother with comments like, “You aren’t beautiful like your mom,” or “You aren’t popular like your mom was,” or “The boys all liked your mom, but they don’t like you,” or “Your mom was nominated for Homecoming Queen, but you weren’t,” all it did was make me feel bad about myself.
I believe she was coping with her grief, but to me, as a young impressionable girl, these comments felt like razor-sharp swords that cut me to my core. These comments made me feel like, no matter what I did, I’d never measure up to my mom. And I wondered if I’d ever amount to anything.
I realize now that my grandma had created an unrealistic image of my mom that no one could ever measure up to, not even my mother.
But those comments hurt and I learned that constant comparison poisons our self-concept and esteem. Being compared to anyone else makes us feel inadequate and even paralyzed–at least that’s what it did to me.
I wanted to be seen for me. I wanted my strengths and talents to be recognized. It was grossly unfair to compare me to an idealized image of my mom.
As an adult, I temper those feelings with the exceeding gratitude I have for my grandparents and their willingness to raise two little girls in what should have been their retirement years.
But I learned that I should never compare myself to anyone else nor should I compare other people, especially my kids, to anyone else.
Don’t Compare Yourself to Others
As women, and as moms, we tend to look at each other and compare ourselves. We may see another mom who’s had three children and is thin and fit and we wonder why, after only one child, we can’t lose the weight.
Or we may see a mom with several kids whose house is clean and orderly and wonder why we can’t keep one room clean with a toddler.
But here’s a secret: we compare ourselves with what we “think” we know about someone else. In reality, we have no idea. We just have an idealized image of that someone else.
I had a woman ask me once how I always had everything together. Whenever she saw me, I looked like I had everything all worked out. I burst out laughing, because that was so far from the truth. Yes, I tried to keep up with kids and laundry and cleaning and, occasionally, I tried to brush my hair. But having “everything together?” Hardly.
We tend to compare our worst selves with other people’s best selves. We put pressure on ourselves and self-imposed expectations because we think someone else has it “together.”
Comparing ourselves to anyone else is just wrong. No one else is me. No one else has had my experiences or seen the world through my eyes. No one else has lived my life or dealt with exactly the same things as me. Trying to make myself fit into a box I created based on other people will never benefit me or my personal growth.
We just can’t compare ourselves to anyone else. We need to recognize, appreciate, and embrace our own uniqueness.
Don’t Compare Your Kids to Others
A companion to that is we should never compare our children to each other or to anyone else’s children. Each child is unique. Each child has his or her own talents. Each child deserves to be seen for his or her own individual self.
I remember being compared to my best friend in elementary school. I wasn’t as sweet as her. Or as cute as her. Or as nice. It always made me feel like I just wasn’t good enough and it stunted my ability to grow.
I vowed I would not to that to my kids. Comparing one child to another, whether that’s a sibling or a friend, is detrimental. It does no good.
My children all have the same parents. We’ve been pretty consistent in how we’ve raised our kids. Yet, each child is different. Every. Single. One.
Some of my kids have similarities in their personalities or mannerisms, but each one is unique. I couldn’t possibly expect one to be just like another. That’s unfair. And no one wants to be compared to anyone else.
It may be tempting to say things like, “If only you were as smart as your brother,” or “Why can’t you sing as well as your sister,” or “Your brother would never say something like that.” These statements don’t work. In fact, they do the opposite.
Instead of comparing ourselves or our kids to others, we would do well to recognize our own distinctive talents and strengths. We all have them and recognizing that in others helps to build them up.
Not only do we as moms (and dads) want to be seen for who we are, our kids also want to be recognized for their individuality. Recognizing that we’re all different empowers us. It makes us stronger. When we remove the comparison and focus on the talents and strengths we have and the things that make us extraordinary we are more confident and self-assured.
When we recognize our children’s unique qualities it makes them feel seen and loved for who they are and for what they can contribute to the family and to the world.
Encourage Talents and Strengths
One of my daughters is a professional artist. In kindergarten, it was obvious that she had artistic talent. She would draw people with eyelashes, jewelry, make-up, and intricate details on their clothing. I did my best to encourage her artistic talent and tried to never compare it to anyone else’s.
My kids have talents in singing, acting, drawing, painting, writing, and reading. I try to encourage each of them to develop and nurture their talents while recognizing that they all have different ones.
Talents don’t have to be limited to the arts. Talents can include compassion, patience, kindness, friendliness, and empathy. My kids also have these talents and through the years, have taught me how to develop my own talents.
I love to encourage my kids to grow in their talents and strengths. Watching a child work hard to master a song or learn the lines for a play or finish an art piece or become a better friend or be kind to someone who has been unkind to them makes my heart happy.
Comparison Should Only Be to Ourselves
Perhaps there is a belief that comparing people to each other will motivate them to do better. In my experience, that hasn’t been true. I’ve only seen it have negative effects.
The only real comparison we should be doing is with ourselves. Are we better at ____ now than we were last month or last year? Am I better at playing the piano today than I was a year ago? Am I more aware of my spouse’s needs? Am I trying harder to think of others’ feelings? Have I learned how to grow a better garden? Can I sew a more complicated pattern now? Gauging my personal growth comes from comparing myself to me, not comparing myself to anyone else.
Comparing myself to another woman will never be beneficial, but comparing myself to where I was in the past may help me to improve. The same goes with our kids.
I’ve tried to teach my kids to never compare themselves to anyone else, only to themselves.
What has your experience been? Please comment and let me know what you think about comparison.