Thursday, January 5, 2017

That Nasty Comparison Trap

A few weeks ago I was scanning Facebook and I came across a friend's post that made me pause. It was a picture of her four children sitting around their dining room table, grins and frosting spread across their faces. The caption said: "Yesterday since the kids had an early release day we decorated sugar cookies."

My first thought: "Yesterday, when we had an early release day, I didn't take time to decorate sugar cookies--my kids watched Christmas movies while I packed. What's wrong with me? Why don't I make memories like this with my children? Why am I so busy all the time? What kind of experiences will my children remember from childhood?"

And then, I glanced over and met the big green eyes of my excited ten-year-old daughter, Maryn. She grinned and wiggled her shoulders in excitement, and then looked back down at the book she was reading.

Where were we? Sitting in an airplane on the tarmac, waiting for our flight to Phoenix to take off.

And I wanted to hit myself upside the head for falling into yet another comparison trap.


I was in an airplane. On my way to Arizona. With my daughter. Making a memory she would carry with her for the rest of her life. My husband and I had made a conscious decision to spend the extra money to give her an experience most children her age aren't getting.

Because this is our life. These are our experiences. We are making the most of our resources and time and giving our children what we believe is best for them. I'm a writer and my friend was releasing her debut novel in Arizona. We were going to help her celebrate this awesome achievement. How many children can say they've had that experience?





No. I'm not a baker (the thought of gathering my children around the table to decorate cookies makes me squirm). I'm a writer who lives and breathes books. I love history. I'm passionate about homeschooling. I love my community. I'm a Christ-follower. I have a large extended family. We live on the Mississippi River and love to spend time with close friends. What does that mean for my children's experiences? It means I read to them, dedicate books to them, write them into the characters on my pages. I take them to cool historic sites and museums all over the state and country. I spend hours and hours with my children while we do schoolwork. We volunteer in our community, go to local shops, spend time at the library, play in the parks, take historic walking tours. We go to church, where we fellowship with like-minded believers and where my children are being brought up in the ways of our faith. We spend hours and hours on the Mississippi in the summer months and we host lots of family parties at our house throughout the year.

I may not be a baker, and my children might not have memories of sitting around the table decorating cookies, but they will have memories. Ones specially-tailored to our unique life.

But that's the trouble with the comparison trap. Instead of focusing on what we're doing right, and what God created us to do, we're beating ourselves up when we see others doing things we "think" we should be doing. Maybe we even want to do them, but our lives aren't conducive to what they're doing. It stresses us out and makes us feel guilty, adding more and more to our already full plate. Instead of doing some things well, we're doing all things half-hearted. It saps our energy and we're not able to do what God has called us to do with the strength the job requires.

Comparison is a tricky, deceptive thing. It causes us to give ourselves a hard time for not doing enough. Doing too much. Spending too much. Not spending enough. Working too hard. Not working hard enough. Playing too much. Not playing enough. Traveling too much. Not traveling enough. The list goes on and on.

So I say STOP! Stop comparing yourself. Stop looking at your friends (or acquaintances) and finding yourself lacking. You are a one-of-a-kind person. Specifically-tailored by God for the purpose He has decided.

If you're a baker, bake! If you're a writer, write! If you're a teacher, teach! And appreciate what you have to offer to your children, your spouse, your friends, and the world because of what you do and who you are.

Don't you dare compare yourself to my list, either. Make your own list and realize you're doing amazing things with your life. Yes, we all have areas we need to improve--but give yourself a break and realize all of us fall into the comparison trap from time to time.

As 2017 begins, I challenge you to make a list of all that you do. Sit down, pull out your laptop or a pad of paper, and write away. I guarantee you'll be amazed--and maybe a little tired--when you realize you're already doing a lot of awesome things. I've found people are quick to share their faults and shortcomings, but they hesitate when you ask them to share their strengths and what they like about themselves. Don't hesitate. Start appreciating what you are doing and then relax. You're awesome just the way you are.

I'd love to hear what you do well. Come on, don't be shy! I'm not asking you to boast, but to be honest with yourself and see that what you're doing is amazing.

Gabrielle Meyer
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23 comments:

  1. Thank you, Gabrielle! This is soooooo good!!!!

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    1. It definitely came from a passionate place in my heart. :) Thanks for stopping by to join the conversation, Becky.

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  2. Thanks Gabe! What a great reminder. I am in tears reading this. I think we as moms always feel we have short comings when we hear our kids talking about what their friends received, are doing, etc. We forget to remember that our children are happy, they are healthy and we are raising them just fine according to our life. God gave us the perfect children for our life, but he also gave our children the perfect parents and life for them. He already knows the end and that should bring us much comfort. ���� Thank you for sharing your heart!

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    1. Bobbi Jo, I know, without a doubt, that you love your boys and you're doing the very best for them. Their experience, like your own, is unique and perfect. The things you're teaching them, and the experiences they are having, will make them the men God designed them to be. Keep up the good work! I know they adore you. <3

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  3. Beautiful, heartfelt, refreshingly honest, Christ-honoring post. I struggle with this also which is why I fasted from the Facebook feed a couple of years. 'The grass is always greener' is one of the enemy's largest lies. Thank you for shining light on the truth. 💛

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    1. Isn't it amazing? I agree 100%. The enemy distracts us to weaken us and our calling. If we spent less time comparing ourselves to others, we'd have more energy to focus on what God asks of us. Just yesterday, as I was reading A Moonbow Night, I compared my writing to yours (and found mine lacking!)--but then the Holy Spirit quickly reminded me that you are called to write your stories, and I'm called to write mine. They are both needed. They speak to the heart of the reader in different ways. If we were both writing just like you, one of us would not be needed (me). :) Comparison steals our joy and makes us doubt God's perfect plan in our lives. Thank you for being here, Laura.

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  4. When my son was in second grade I had a rare experience of helping in his classroom. I was a full time working mom. There was a room mother there that seemed to have it all together. She was a take charge, knew what to do, could speak the special child language, helper. I was so envious. She had that aura about her. But years later she shared in our women's group at church and her life had been far from perfect. (Divorce, health issues, re-marriage, etc.) and just this past Sept. had something horrific happen in her life that she will never be able to get over. I realize we all have our own issues to deal with and we can let them destroy us or we can call on God to help us through. No ones life is perfect. And I don't bake cookies either. I hate to cook and bake. I was busy working when my kids were growing up but we did make a few memories. Now I get to spend time with my grandkids (they live right across the street). We go camping a lot and that is fun for us all.

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    1. You're absolutely right, Gail. It's easy to compare our lives to someone who appears "perfect," when in truth, no one is perfect. Every person has a story within their life that could make you cry. When I see someone who has it all together, and I find myself lacking, I remind myself that they have their own unique struggles and joys, their own strengths and weaknesses, just like I do. I might be in a situation with someone (like you in the classroom), where that person is in their element and they shine--but take them out of that situation and they probably struggle. I, for one, would not shine in the classroom! I have a friend who is an elementary school music teacher and she shines at her job! I would look like a harried convict at the end of the day if I had to do that job. :) I know you made lasting memories with your children, and their classmates, when you volunteered. I'm sure the teacher appreciated your help and the time you were able to sacrifice to be there. I also love to hear that you get to see your grandkids all the time! That's a priceless gift. I'm sure they love to camp with you.

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  5. Wonderful, encouraging post! Thank you so much! Happy New Year!

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    1. I'm happy the post encouraged you. It's been on my heart for a few weeks and needed to be released. :) Happy New Year to you, too.

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  6. I get hives if I think of trying to cook or bake with my kids! I do NOT have kitchen skills. So yes, I look at those posts of moms who do and think "wow, I stink as a parent". Awesome reminder that I am doing different things with my kids as experiences! My daughter was able to fly with me and my mom to go drive a truck back from Texas for my brother. You are right - that is an experience they will forever remember!! You are an awesome parent and sounds like your kids will have plenty of awesome memories to tell their kids. Who needs sugar cookies anyways?! ;) (Who gets to read their own book to their kids?! Not many of us! That is phenomenal all on its own!)

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    1. I can just about imagine all the great memories made on that drive back from Texas, Susan! Road trips are unforgettable experiences. And it boggles my mind where we come up with the definition of good parent vs. bad parent. If I don't bake with my kids, why does that make me a bad parent? I think it's time we look at our perceived ideas and accept that there are no two parents who are doing everything the same--or perfect! When I look back at my own parents, we had some awesome times as a family, but we didn't live a typical American lifestyle. The first part of my childhood was spent living in a caretaker's apartment above the carriage house of a historic estate. When I look back, it was a magical childhood, because my parents made it that way. Now, they tell me those were some of the hardest years of their life for financial reasons. I'm sure they beat themselves up, wondering what kind of a childhood we were having with very little money--but from my perspective, it was pretty awesome. I wish I could go back and reassure my parents that we would all turn out just fine, and on top of that, the experiences we had there shaped me into the writer I am today.

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    2. Isn't that the truth! Who decides what is a good parent? I grew up on a farm, we had very little money, and yet I had the most fantastical childhood (just as you described yours) and wish my kids could have the same thing! It is a wonderful reminder that money doesn't matter. I'm pretty sure our kids will turn out ok even though they didn't get to make sugar cookies or other "society claimed important" childhood activities. :)

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  7. This is a great reminder. I do a lot of handwork. I've taught all my kids to knit and crochet and the oldest two to tat. In the summer, we go to the free weekly concerts in the park and go camping every summer. I cart them to the beach. We've been to museums and zoos.

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    1. I've always wanted to learn how to do handwork. I know a little crocheting, but tatting sounds like so much fun. All of the things you listed are wonderful, character building activities that will be sweet memories for your children in the future.

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  8. Thank you for this great reminder!

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    1. Thank you for joining the conversation today, Nicole.

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  9. I can agree I am at the age of my life where I constantly look at my life and see my friends that have graduated college are married and have or are having babies. Or their dream job and just got promoted. I sometimes have to remind myself I also graduated from college with a double major. And I am back working on a third degree. I love what I have acomolished and that I have a amazing boyfriend and have spent the last year traveling with friends. I have more trips planned for them. I think it's important no matter what stage you are at in life to just enjoy it life goes by to fast. The key is to remember that we'll my friends may have marriages and kids I have traveling and a great boyfriend. The marriage and dream job will come but perbaps right now I'm ment to travel and I love everymoment of it.

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    1. That is a great perspective to take, Kelsey. I remember those college days well. I wanted so badly to be done with college and move on with my life, but now I look back and see how fleeting those days were. It would be nice to go back and simply enjoy the moment and not wish the years away. It sounds like you have an amazing life, and you're doing things you love. I encourage you to embrace the adventure and continue to enjoy every moment. Traveling is never wasted, neither is education. You're doing an awesome job being Kelsey. :)

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  11. Everyone is different! I think as long as you spend time with your kids, it doesn't matter what you do, as long as you are doing it with them! Thank you for sharing this! It is a reminder to do what I know and not worry about what others things! :)

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    1. You're right, Joy. When we share our passion with our children, and spend quality time with them, it doesn't really matter what the activity is. We're all different and so are our children. :)

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