The Violence of Comparison
Cade brought home a note from his camp teacher last week, telling us what a kind, funny boy he is and how he is such a good friend to everyone. Now, before anyone starts getting jealous about my perfect children, let me reassure you that I’ve received plenty of the “other” type of note, too. But that’s for a different post.
I wrapped my arms around him and praised him highly, telling him that he should be proud of what a good little person he is.
Lila, standing nearby, put her hands on her hips, her eyes flaring with indignation, and shouted angrily, “You don’t love ME? You don’t think I’m a good person?” And then she burst into tears.
Oh, Lila, I thought, sighing. Why would you think that I don’t love you, just because I love your brother? Because he received praise and you didn’t? Don’t you know that the sun rises and sets over each of my children? That my heart swells with love when I even think about you? You’re my precious Lila! Your gifts and your accolades are different, just as Jack and Tyler’s are, too, but my pride in you is the same.
It’s ridiculous. I would never . . .
Well, I mean, I wouldn’t . . .
But Mia, don’t you do that, too?
Why does she get an easier life than I do? Why is she prettier than me? Has better hair? Smarter . . . funnier, thinner? Why are their blessings greater than mine? Why does she struggle less than I do? Sell more books, have more reviews, get more attention?
Our stories are different, our struggles aren’t the same but don’t we ALL look at those pretty Pinterest photos or Facebook posts and wish our life really looked like that all the time? Or even once in a blue freaking moon?
(And so, okay, just in the interest of being honest here, that pretty Christmas card I sent out last year? I bribed my kids with Skittles to sit still and smile, screamed at them when we got home because they were fighting and consoled myself with a bottle of wine. Alone. True story.) So yeah, I have a beautiful family. In other news, I’m slightly hysterical and sometimes wake up with a hangover.
My point is, we only see others from the outside—we see ourselves from the inside. The full picture is vastly different, my friends. Comparison isn’t even real. It’s most often based on an illusion. It’s false and unfair and it hurts.
“Comparison is an act of violence against yourself.” – Iyanla Vanzant
And God, doesn’t it feel that way? Like you’re hacking at yourself from the inside? Like you’re scratching those tender places bloody and raw and convincing yourself you don’t have more because you’re undeserving somehow? You’re not good enough, not smart enough, not talented enough? Like someone left you behind? Hack, hack, hack. Like a desperate, slow, violent death of the soul.
And yeah, you’re the one wielding the knife. Uh huh, I’ve been there, too. I know the feel of the blade as it pierces, know the sting of the words that accompany the pain: there is not enough for me.
It’s a lie.
There is enough for you, for me, for us all. Your journey is enough. Your story is enough. You, just as you are, you are enough.
And I have to remind myself, too, more constantly than I’d like to admit. I will never be Angelina Jolie and live in a mansion in Hollywood with Brad Pitt. I’ve suffered painful losses, I’ve had exciting things happen, I’ve been poor (like, counting pennies in the console of my car to pay for a Taco Bell burrito poor), I’ve been rich by some standards (although in comparison . . . 😉 ) See? It’s been a journey. My journey. It’s different than Angelina’s, but it’s enough and I have blessings, too. So many of them. When I get stuck in the soul-suck of comparison, I try to remind myself to count them rather than listing what I might be lacking when I hold my current situation up against someone else’s.
It feels like a balm. It soothes the ache and loosens those knots I’ve tied myself into.
Maybe you know the ones I’m talking about. Maybe you’ve tied your own knots, too.
And let me say, there have been times when the list of blessings was short, my friends, when I’ve struggled to come up with even a handful, but they’re always there, the things to be thankful for. And listing them turns my mind to the abundance all around me, the gifts I’ve been given, if I’m just willing to see them. Comparison will always end in disappointment in yourself, in what you have, in who you are. Ouch.
Drop the knife.
Shut down Facebook.
Log out of Pinterest.
Repeat after me: I am enough.
Because you are.