The Comparison Trap

We’ve all been there haven’t we?

You see a picture of a beautiful, smiling family on Instagram, then look around at your children, their wild screams exceeding the noise pollution level, as they catapult around the living room, exhaling a defeated sigh as you wonder where you’re going wrong. (Just me?)

Comparisons are part of human nature; we all make them.  But back in the day, you’d probably only have your friends to compare yourself to, maybe the odd well-known celebrity, but that was ok because their celebrity status placed them so far out of reach there wasn’t really any comparison. 

In the digital age, there are any number of people out there, living normal lives just like ours, and we can see every day just how much more fun they’re having, how much they’re achieving (often seemingly effortlessly), and just how much we don’t measure up.

It’s not just social media…

My biggest comparison trap is one that’s impossible for me to escape from, because I’m married to him.

I love my husband dearly, but he’s one of those people who is good at most things he tries his hand at (or maybe he only tries his hand at things he knows he’ll be good at…in fourteen years of marriage I still haven’t figured this one out).

But suffice to say, he’s a man of many talents; the kind of man who gives things a go with zero procrastination and a ninety-nine percent success rate.

Marrying a Type A has done nothing for my confidence.

For someone who has to read the dinner menu before I go to a restaurant, just so I can order my starter before the rest of the diners make it to dessert, my husband’s lack of dithering and ‘can do’ attitude seems like a bloody superpower.

Not only that, he seems to have boundless energy.  He comes home from a full day at the office and announces he’s going to get on with some tiling.  Or painting.  Or fitting a bathroom. 

I get exhausted just looking at him.

So I decided to up my game…

I’ve been reading and listening to podcasts about productivity and habit formation, and I’m aware of the benefit of building systems.

I’ve unwittingly implemented some systems of my own over the years; like leaving my exercise gear out the night before to make it easy to get up and work out, and planning our meals for the week with such precision that if anyone suggests an impromptu take out, it causes me more work in rescheduling than if we’d stuck with the programme (take note family!).

A few months ago, I decided I needed to build specific time for meditation and writing into my day, as these things were falling by the wayside on too many occasions, though next to exercise they were top of the list of things I wanted to get done.

I set myself the goal of fitting everything in before anyone else in the house woke up, which was a sure fire route to distraction.

This motivation was fuelled by an interest in unschooling my children, which started during the hell that was home-schooling in the Pandemic, when I began to think there must be another way for children to learn.

Not wanting to derail my writing adventure, I reasoned that if we ever decide to pursue the avenue of self-directed education (unschooling) in our family, I needed to know I could still find time to write.

Instagram is full of inspiring accounts of unschoolers, where the Mum’s run a successful business alongside providing an inspiring education for their children, so I reasoned to myself that I could do this.

I like mornings.  I love the quiet break of the day, when the sun’s rising and it feels like there’s no one else in the world but me and the birds. 

By 6pm you’ll find me in my pyjamas and after 9pm I become almost monosyllabic.

Mornings it was then.

I settled on rising at around 5-5.30am.  If I was in bed by 9pm, then I would naturally wake at this time anyway.

The system worked…

“Some days I still think I could be someone else, those are the days I feel lost to myself.”

Mary Chapin Carpenter, Note on a Windshield from The Things That We Are Made of Copyright 2016 Lambent Light Records

…for about three months.

But throw in some mornings where I woke up too early (4.30am), and some late nights (because if I don’t stay up past 9pm every now and again then I don’t see my husband, despite my earlier whinging, I do enjoy spending time with him), and the cumulative lack of sleep started to take it’s toll.

After three months of tightly scheduling my days, I’ve officially run out of steam.

Yesterday, I was hanging out with my daughter in her room when I fell asleep, mid chat. I woke up half an hour later, drool on my chin and all alone, my daughter having left me in favour of more interesting pursuits than talking to a comatose mother.

Later on, I was playing a pre-bedtime game with my son and, despite my earlier power nap, I could not keep my eyes open.  They were shutting involuntarily while I sat there.

My head hit the pillow at 9pm and I was dead to the world for ten hours, when my husband’s alarm woke me up.  I’d been sneaking out of bed in the wee hours for so many weeks, I’d almost forgotten what he looked like in the morning.

Do you remember in Harry Potter when Gilderoy Lockheart magics away the bones in Harry’s arm?  My whole body feels like that today.  I’m jellified.

This was a lesson learned the hard way, but it reminded me of one very important thing: I am not my husband. I’m not one of the amazing mumtrepreneurs I follow on Instagram, or one of the high-flying millionaires I listen to on podcasts. And that’s okay.

My mantra is slow and steady, I even wrote a poem about it.

Trying to rush things or push things, or live at a hundred miles per hour doesn’t sit comfortably with me. I get flustered, frustrated and unproductive. I need rest, and lots of it. So maybe I need to stop comparing myself to Ferrari’s in the fast lane and find something a little more my speed, like a Robin Reliant, trundling down a country road, Bob Marley on the stereo and the smell of the Great British countryside drifting in through the open windows.

What’s your speed? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Image from Visharo at Dreamstime.com

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15 thoughts on “The Comparison Trap

  1. Loved this post. I’ve just been thinking recently – with the prospect of the world speeding back up – that I’m really going to miss how slow the world has been during lockdown – and that I wasn’t rushing around like a lunatic all the time. That you are different than your other half makes the two of you interesting to each other though – imagine if you were identical – you would drive each other mad.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Jonathan.

      Like you I’m going to miss the pace of lockdown.

      I’ve realised how much we do because we feel it’s expected of us (even though we often put the expectation on ourselves), to be polite or because of FOMO.

      I’m beginning to see that keeping the lockdown pace won’t be possible unless I can persuade my family to go off grid (not a chance), but I’m getting better at saying no to some things.

      I like your last comment. My husband and I do still drive each other mad on occasions, but also I think we balance each other out. I slow him down when he’s going too fast, and he gives me a turbo boost when I’m beginning to crawl ☺️

      Like

  2. Love this blog Rae
    I also plan meals at home and try to choose my food in advance if eating out, although something completely different often comes out of my mouth when the waiter is poised expectantly with pen in hand !!
    Having been brought up in a family where appearance is high priority, I yearn to break free and rock hairy legs and no makeup…..lockdown was great for indulging that fantasy.
    My natural speed is slow with bursts of adrenaline fuelled activity. Xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m with you on the hairy legs and no make up…at least I was in winter, during lockdown, but I’m finding it hard to stick to when people outside my family can see! 🙈
      I’m thinking you must be a Tesla then, cruising along in the slow lane then every now and again kicking in the acceleration boost 🏎 xxx

      Like

  3. Pingback: Fit and Healthy: are they the same thing? | Rae Cod’s Writing

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