I saw them this morning.
Even though they’ve been hiding, I know they’re there. I really like them. And I miss them. That’s why I keep moving them.
MY BK pants … you know, Before Kids.
Since having kids, we’ve moved five times. All within a half of a mile radius. Jon and I aren’t picky, and our moves have almost always been based on space issues, as in several wonderful additions to our family. Basically, we grew out of our homes as my body grew and shrank and grew and shrank through multiple pregnancies. As the number of kids increased, my age increased, and the shrinking didn’t come as swiftly as it did on the first few kids.
Still, with every move, I’ve boxed up and carted those pants. I can’t wear them, but I keep them just in case.
I don’t know why I do it. I’m fairly confident, not in some defeating way, that I will never wear them again. My goodness, I wore them seventeen years ago. No need to go into the fact that “out of style” would be an understatement. But I love those pants.
And, I’m really okay with those pants staying in my drawer. Because, at the deepest part of my heart, I’m happy with myself. I’m healthy. I’m fit (sort of), not svelt or anything. I’m just regular. I’m okay, never totally satisfied, good enough. … Well… except on the days that Jack ignores closed doors and stands in front of the shower begging for something. And I yell, “Get out! I’ll help you in a minute!” Then I mumble, “Can’t a woman get a moment alone around here?” all while praying that he can un-see whatever I hope didn’t see and that his memory won’t be seared forever.
Yeah that, and when I see something like those pants that remind me of who I used to be. And then I start to compare myself with me and feel my joy being sapped as I tip to Less Than (as in less than I think I should be) and I fall up short. And then I remember that even when I wore those pants, I mourned for something I wore in college… falling up short again. It amazes me – the hamster wheel has no end.
So this morning, when I saw the Movers, those pants that keep following me, I shook my head. Comparison is brutal. It surrounds us. It’s a part of life like air – we can’t always see it, but we breathe it and take notice when it storms. We expect it in Jr. High. We expect it in the workplace, in sports, in academia. We’re blindsided when it shows up in something like competitive parenting or in my drawer. But doesn’t it stop somewhere along the way?
This week and next, I’m determined to finish the new book I’ve told you guys about that addresses society’s OCD – Obsessive Comparison Disorder. As of today, the title, that could always change, is “I’m Happy for You … sort of … not really: Finding Contentment in a Culture of Comparison.” And, in an effort to hit my deadline, I took a road trip this weekend to work on the book. I decided to read what I hope will be the first chapter to Snopes and her friend (they’re 15) who tagged along, and was a tiny bit surprised as I watched it sink in.
Snopes’ friend offered up some honesty herself, “I totally get what you’re talking about.” She thought for a minute then added, “In Ballet, even though I’ve been dancing since I was three, I’m just not flexible. So when we stretch, I can’t help but look at the girls that can stretch further than me and I want to be them. I want to be better than I am. And I wonder what it would be like if I could stretch like any one of the other girls…. It takes a lot of the joy away from what I love. I don’t know why I do it.” I nodded and looked at my daughter, reading her thoughts that I’m sure didn’t care at all about flexibility but wish for willowy thinness like her ballet friend.
My daughter’s friend had summed it up in a nutshell. “… it takes joy away from what I love.” And as she shared, I tracked with her, thinking – yes, I get it. Me too.
Later, after getting home, Jon & I raced to Community Group. In our group are some friends who recently moved back to Dallas. They’ve been living in a small back house as they update their new-to-them but old home. The husband started to share some of his insecurities as we stood in our host’s lovely living room. “We love where we’re living, but we drive over here and see kids playing outside. Then I think about our neighbors, the youngest of which is… um … around 90 and I start to worry about our kid having friends to play with. Which I know is ridiculous since he’s almost past that age. But, then I look at this house which is larger than ours and our perfect-for-our-family-of-three home seems pretty small – which is silly because it’s fine. More than fine. … It’s crazy how quickly thoughts can travel to discontent even when our provision is more than sufficient.”
He’s right. I had just been eye-ing our host’s art. Wondering if the Community Group notices the prints on our walls rather that aren’t real art. But, what does her art have anything to do with me?! Why can’t I just appreciate it rather than bite into the temptation to make it about me? It’s crazy. I know better.
And truthfully, I do know better. I caught myself in that art moment. And did one of things that actually dispels comparison. I quickly re-booted and was genuinely happy for my friend, our host. And when it’s not about me, I can appreciate her great taste and the beauty of what hangs on her walls. Which makes the moment full rather than leaving me empty.
The truth is, I might be looking at my Mover pants, or art, or fill in the blank when I’m sixty because I’m not sure the comparison thing ever stops. But I hope not. I hope that through honest discussion, we can encourage each other as we consider practical ways to tame comparison pressures. Part of that is sharing so we don’t feel alone.
So, where does it hit you? Where do you feel the comparison pressure? I really want to know. Because it can have an end … or a least pauses. I hope to include YNAs (Your Not Alone call-outs or sidebars) from you guys to help us pause. Because pauses often offer perspective.
If you feel comfortable commenting, please do so below. Or email me at email@example.com
Confronting comparison opens the door to a path toward contentment. I hope the book will offer hope through practical steps we can take steps to lessen comparison’s strongholds in our lives – together. No road should be walked alone.
Thanks for walking it with me.
Wow! I wish I had a chapter to write. As funny as it sounds, I’ve had seasons of comparison. When I was in high school, I compared my hair and skin. My hair was (and is) naturally curly, doesn’t look cute wet and I had a horrible complexion. I always felt like the ugly duckling, except I was thin and looked cute (I thought) in clothes. I used to say, “well at least I have that going for me.” Through college and early marriage was my single season of feeling like I had it all. I got a straightener, my face cleared up, I was still thin and cute and I was married to a great guy (still am). I was awesome!!! Even after my four kids (three pregnancies, you do the math), I felt pretty good about myself. I mean I didn’t need to go to the tent store to buy clothes and I was so content at home with my kids. THEN, the last four years happened. In May, 2010 I was diagnosed with celiac disease, which is means I can’t eat wheat products. Because I had gone undiagnosed for many years, I had lost weight because I wasn’t absorbing nutrients. Therefore, I was sick, but skinny! When I stopped eating gluten, my body started absorbing again, and you guessed it, I gained weight. This has been really difficult for me. I compare myself to my former “me” and others. I don’t compare myself to 20-somethings, I mean that’s just stupid. But I do compare myself to others my age, who for the most part, seem to be sitting somewhere in their goal weight. Not me. It’s so frustrating and upsetting at times. My husband, for the record, could not be greater about it. I know he loves me at any size. The comparison dragon reached a new level recently when everyone was starting to drink the “pink drink” Plexus. I had a friend that lost 38 pounds in 5 months drinking this stuff. I was so encouraged! I was like, “this is my ticket back to cuteness”. I started drinking it in January. Guess how much I’ve lost—NOTHING!!!!!!!!! I am back to discouraged and it’s bathing suit season. Shoot me! I know I need to a) get content or b) do something about it. I am stuck and frustrated. Comparison makes it worse and I know it. Thanks, Kay, I will read your book, and hopefully get a new perspective.
thank YOU, Stephanie … and to the rest of you who emailing. Please keep it coming … such good stuff, so encouraging.
I’ve got one. I love that we have Facebook – I love keeping up with old friends and sharing joys and sorrows with friends and family around the world. 99% of the time the experience is good. But it only takes one post to totally rock my boat – a girls trip. I don’t know why that undoes me so much, but lately I feel like a bunch of my friends have been going on these – not reunion-type trips – just a bunch of moms from the neighborhood taking a weekend getaway together. I really don’t want to go on one of these, but for some reason, when I see a picture on Instragram or Facebook, I have a moment…..a 7th grade, pimply, chubby girl moment….where I feel like everyone is having fun but me. Every single time, I have to mental walk myself back to normal. “I have good friends”, “I wouldn’t agree to go on that trip anyway”, “We are having such a fun weekend in town that I’d be missing if I went”, “That’s just not how we roll”, “Everyone is NOT doing it”. Seriously, sometimes Facebook puts me back in the middle school girl mentality…..I’m just glad that I’m more mature than my middle school self to deal with it now!
Thanks Claire … love the 7th grade moment. Jr High is always just a breath away :)
Get rid of those pants! You are not your pants. I used to keep items like that and then I realized I was saving clothes for my brain, and not for my body. It’s freeing to donate them, wish them well, and then find new pants that will give you joy. :)
I know I should. Maybe I will … I just love them. They offer such fond memories :) … I did get rid of my shoulder pads in the last move. Of course my keeping them had nothing to do keeping them to wear them. How I could have kept those for so long I’ll never know.
Love this and cannot WAIT for your new book. There aren’t enough keystroke spaces in this field to list all my insecurities, seriously. When I start going down that road I have to tell myself over and over “comparison is the thief of joy” — I don’t want to let it steal my joy!!
Thanks, Heather. Love T Roosevelt’s quote.
okay, if you are going to write a book about obsessive comparison disorder you have to include a chapter on “the glimpse”. Come by and I’ll tell you all about it. :)
Can’t wait … although I’m nervous the “glimpse” might have something to do with one of our many embarrassing moments (eek! :)
Kay, thanks for calling attention to this comparison trap. Just yesterday at the gym I was comparing how much weight the person next to me used for the choreographed bar bell routine in body pump. We were approximately the same size but she could lift so much more than I could. How foolish of me to waste my time in that self defeating trap. At the car wash I was comparing a hip new BMW to my 10 year old minivan. The point is, we must take every thought captive. I catch myself many times after the fact. Hebrews 12:2-3 sums it up so well. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…” (not our neighbor, our mirror, other moms, etc.) and “consider him….so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” I pray we don’t grow weary! Thanks for keeping it real.
Wow – powerful good message, Kay! We compare on so many levels – straight hair, thin thighs, number of times we attend church in a week, what school our kids attend… Those look like ‘Harold’s’ pants, by the way. Oh, the good ol’ days…
As high school graduations draw near, I sadly compare my three kids, all of whom have some sort of learning disability, to my neighbors’ kids, who do not have any LD’s. They will be graduating with honors, some with college level courses under their belt, and play sports and musical instruments, and are involved with Boy Scouts (one just got his Eagle). My kids? It’s a struggle to get homework done and the money that could have been spent on music lessons is going for tutoring instead. Gave up Scouts because it was too much to work into the schedule and get homework and tutoring done and still have some sanity left. My kids may never go to college either. However, they are kind and they are GOOD, which in my book is most important. Still, it’s hard to not compare when the accomplishments of others are staring you right in the face every day. Heard a good thought on the radio today that may help: People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. In today’s culture things are loved and people are used. Until we turn that around, we won’t survive as a nation.
I love your site but have never felt compelled to comment before. My biggest comparison (biggest, not only!) is comparing myself to those with multiple children. I have an “only” after struggling with infertility and miscarriages. I love my daughter to death and am SO grateful for her, but when I see those moms who are covered up in kids I feel inadequate and, honestly, sometimes resentful. When acquaintances ask me how many kids I have, I seem to choke on the dreaded “just one” response because then their faces glaze over and I wonder if they’re thinking ‘you poor thing, bless your heart’ or ‘do you know how incredibly selfish of you that is?’ Probably just my imagination but that’s where my mind goes when left to its own devices. I always feel like I’ve let her down too, because she has no siblings to love on, fight with, and learn from. She is acutely aware of that fact, too. If I could give her anything, I’d give her a sibling. Sadly, my husband has zero interest in adoption. I have to remind myself often that this is the plan for me and no one else and to be grateful for all I DO have.
On the up side, I’m hopeful that she will have about 15 kids when she gets married as she is crazy about kids. :)
I find myself comparing the “cool” things other kids have that my kids don’t. (And we don’t need, we’re fine, really! We have too much as it is. Just because they don’t have an iPad or an e-reader or the newer gaming platforms–really, NOT needed!) Along with other things already mentioned above (house size/type, decorating, appearances)…and I don’t like it. I try to focus on the positive and how BLESSED we are. I know it on one level, and yet finding myself doing it. So yeah, I get it. :) Looking forward to hearing more about the book.
Great article, although I’m pretty sure the phrase “OCD- Obsessive Comparison Disorder” was created by a different blogger. I read the book “101 Secrets for your Twenties” back in 2013 by Paul Angone where I first heard of this phrase, and I think he wrote a blog about it even earlier than that. It applies to anyone who obsessively compares, not just moms or those in their twenties.