smile quoteOn Monday, I had such a fun time getting to chat with Chris Fabry on his life radio program from Moody in Chicago. Actually, it has been a privilege throughout the summer to be able to chat with several terrific hosts about the topic of finding contentment in the midst of what seems to be relentless opportunities to compare.

Comparison is one of those shruggable things that is easy to say, glad I don’t do that – feel bad for the folks that do. Which is really where I probably sat before delving into it. Comparison can take happy or sad situations and make them bad or worse. It sneaks its way into almost any given situation and does what T. Roosevelt so aptly put, robs us of joy.

So on Chris’s show, he opened in the most unusual and compelling way. He transparently shared about ways comparison creeps into his life, then he invited folks to call in about their own struggles. I was floored at the raw honesty – and grieved at the ways we are lured to unsettling discontent by comparing ourselves to “expectations,” “image pressures,” “picture perfect ideal of who I should be.” And just so you know, the callers weren’t middle school insecure teens, they were mature adults – men & women.

My heart literally sank as Jay from Akron honestly admitted that the “er”s get him – really get him. In fact he went so far as to use the word “consume.” Seeing, knowing what others have (“bigger home, a better job – to me everyone looks like they have it better”) or do (“retirees – even though I’m not near to retiring”) or “it could be anything – not just possessions, but circumstances.” Then he said, “For some reason I feel inadequate in all ways. And I’m very successful in a lot of ways … but I never feel successful.”

Feelings are powerful. He ended with why he decided to call in, “I don’t know if there are others who are as consumed, I”m sure there are… I hoped I could help by opening up.”

What a powerful way to start a show. Bold statements by regular folks – we‘re not alone. And we spent the next hour talking about ways to call it out and to tame it. One of which is the obvious/should be easy, yet is so challenging, act of gratitude.

Here’s a little from I’m Happy for You on what I learned about gratitude’s role:

Researchers have found that people who regularly write down thing for which they are grateful in “gratitude journals” have increased satisfaction in life, higher energy levels, and improved health. In one study, people who read a letter of appreciation to someone in their lives were measurably happier almost one month later. Performing acts of kindness or altruism boosts moods.

I especially loved this little piece on the simple act of smiling:

Even the simple act of smiling stimulates peace and contentment. According to researchers, “neurotransmitters called endorphins are released when you smile. … Faking a smile or laugh works as well as the real thing – the brain doesn’t differentiate between real or fake as it interprets the positioning of the facial muscles in the same way.”

I’m reminded of my grandmother and her gentle chides: “Smile. You’ll feel better.” And I try to remind my kids that being happy is a choice.”

And here it is in action: Watch what smiling does for the receiver as well as the giver (the latter of which had ample, very real reasons to be waylaid by circumstances):

Want to breathe in the midst of the crazies (especially around back-to-school stuff: who got what teacher, carpools, teams, home-coming dates, … fill in the blank) – be grateful for the good – because it’s there – and SMILE. Help someone else smile. It’s powerful and real. It literally, physically makes us feel better.

Thanks for walking the road with me.


Then … as if on cue, I see Julie Hildebrand’s post today on her blog. She says it so well:

Julie's post

Comparison and Compassion: Lessons from a Black Tie Affair

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