Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Greener, schmeener!

Have these thoughts ever crossed your mind?

~I wish I had her hair.  It is so beautiful.
~Wow! I wish I could eat like she does and have THAT figure!  No fair!
~Her house is bigger, nicer, and cleaner than mine!
~Her car is newer, nicer, and cleaner than mine!
~Her kids are kinder, smarter, quieter, and cleaner than mine!
~She is SO organized.  I wish I were that way.
~She is so calm and sweet.  I'm sure SHE never yells at her kids.

And what about the heavier questions?

~Why does she have the perfect husband and I am still alone?!
~Why do I sit here begging God to give me children and that woman seems to pop them out every other week?!
~Why do I see people all around me spending lavishly, while I am struggling just to make ends meet?!
~Everything comes easy to all these people--money, relationships, parenting, career, life in general--but I struggle with EVERYTHING!!!  Why can't it be easy for me?!

You probably have never thought any of those, right?
You probably never compare yourself to others either. 
And you certainly never worry about what other people think of you. 

Surely I am the only one.  Well, maybe me and a few others (namely, most every female on the planet!).

Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why do we doubt ourselves and pick apart our lives? 

In my experience, it is not my dear friends and family with whom I compare myself.  I don't worry about their opinion of me.  I know they love me and accept me as I am.  It is all the other people that make me uneasy.  The complete stranger and the mere acquaintances.  These people who have absolutely no bearing on my life are the ones who make me the most self-conscious.  Think about that for a minute.  In no way would I turn to any of those people to ask their opinions or advice.  I would never go to them when I was having a bad day or a great day for that matter.  So why do they have the power to make me feel so insignificant and unworthy.

Let's take high-school reunions as an example.  Many of us want to go to our reunions to catch up with old friends.  But when we go, we are not content just showing up in our average clothes with our spouse and kids behaving a wildly as they usually do.  No.  We go out and buy new clothes, if we can.  We spend much more time than usual fixing our hair and make-up.  We prep our families on how to behave.  We want to impress all those people with amazing stories of all we have accomplished since high school, with how awesome our husband and children are, with our amazing careers, etc.  It reminds me of "Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion".  The movie is clearly over the top, but so true in many respects.  And still, it's not my closest friends from high school that I would be trying to impress.  They would still love me and laugh with me if I showed up in my pajamas!  It is the ones who always made me self-concious back then, that somehow still have that effect on me years later.

But tell me something, do any of them have any right to speak into my life?  No.  Does their opinion of me change the quality of my life?  No.  And yet, just being around them can make me feel 2 inches tall again. 

I remember when my oldest son went to kindergarten.  I was nervous and excited for him and me.  I was eager to meet some other moms from my neighborhood and make some new friends.  Boy, was I in for an education.  Silly me.  I thought we had left the high-school mentality back in high-school.  How naive I was!  The cliques and snooty attitudes from some of the moms was shocking!  Once again, I found myself not measuring up to someone else's standards of "cool", and consequently felt my self-conciousness return. 

And how about this:  When you are a single mom, it is overwhelmingly difficult not to compare yourself to everyone around you all day everyday.  You are trying to do what's best for your child/ren, working hard to provide the best for them: driving your old, rickety car...wearing your clothes that are certainly not "this season"...buying your child clothes and shoes from Goodwill and Walmart because that's all you can afford...not being able to buy outrageous gifts for all the outrageous birthday parties you are invited to...trying to expain to your 4 year old that she doesn't NEED expensive sparkly shoes so that the other girls will play with her...seeing 'happy' couples everywhere you go.  Let me tell you from experience, it is near impossible not to spend everyday with a great big ache in your heart and doubts about your self-worth in your head.

But let me also tell you that joy and contentment have absolutely, positively NOTHING to do with what you do or do not have!  It is looking at others realistically and appreciating what you do have.

I am convinced that being confident in who you are and where you are in life is not a goal to be reached.  It is a life-long journey that requires daily tuning of your perspective.  At a conference a few years back, I heard a speaker suggest that as a homeschooling mom you should make a list of the reasons why you do it.  That way when the difficult days show up, you can refer back to the list to get the proper perspective.  Maybe that's what we need to do in this area of life as well.  As we approach Thanksgiving, I see many people posting things they are thankful for each day on Facebook.  That's a great perspective changer!  Why not take it a step further.  Try this: write down the top 5 - 10 things you love about your life, laminate or frame it, and put it in a prominent place in your home.  Here is my general list:

How I am Blessed

I have a wonderful husband who loves and takes care of me and my kids.
I have three sweet, funny, energetic boys.
I have a supportive and loving extended family.
I have an amazing group of sister-friends to "do life" with.
I have all a lot more than I ever thought I would and way more than I need.
I have the liberty to do what I think is best for my family.
I have forgiveness and grace given to me freely each and every day.

Take a few minutes to make your list.  (Maybe even make a wallet-sized copy to keep in your purse!)  Make it as generalized or specific as you like.  And next time you begin to feel small, for whatever reason, look at your list.

I heard it said recently that we often compare our normal to other people's best.  I wish I could remember the exact quote, it was much more eloquent.  But the point is, our comparisons are unfair.  Everyone's public persona is shinier and better than their real life.  Who we are when no one is watching is considerably different than what we put on display for all to see.  My close friends have seen my bad days and I have seen theirs.  That is why I love and respect them, and vice versa.  And that is why it is so easy to feel inadequate when we compare ourselves to those we don't know...because we DON'T know them.  We don't know their faults and struggles.  We don't know their failures and doubts. 

The woman with the beautifully clean house spent hours cleaning before you came over for dinner.  The 'perfect' kids are disobedient and unruly at times, just like yours.  The happily married couple have bad fights some times.  The family that can buy whatever they want spent years just getting by to pay off all their debts.  All the people that make you feel 2 inches tall, often feel that way themselves.  And guess what.  There are people out there that look at you and think you are the perfect woman with the perfect life.

So stop comparing your worst (or even average) to someone else's best.  And whatever you do, don't lose sight of all the great things you have to be thankful for.

Remember, the grass isn't actually greener on the other side of the fence.  And if you want to see how beautiful your grass is, you need to STOP LOOKING AT YOUR DIRT PILE!

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