On Comparisons

These past few days, two thoughts are swimming around in my head.

The first thought stems from a recent post by Michelle of 4 Men and 1 Lady. In it, she addressed the comparison problem that’s so pervasive in American society today. You know about this, don’t you? It’s when you read about someone’s home renovation, hear about that great party you weren’t invited to, or learn about someone else’s success at work. Perhaps you’re happy for those people, but you also wonder, why not me? How come I didn’t get that chance? Why wasn’t I invited? And, suddenly, whatever you have isn’t good enough.

It’s a strange phenomenon. Even confident, happy people can get caught up in a comparison game–I know I did recently and it felt awful. It’s worse in a world of social media where everyone’s fantastic vacation, perfect children, and brand-new _____ {insert expensive shoes/handbag/car/whatever here} fill your Facebook news feed and speed through your Twitter stream.

As a parent, when I spend so much time laying the groundwork for my children to believe in themselves and be satisfied with who they are, the comparison problem poses a particular challenge. How do we shake off this stuff? How do we stop comparing ourselves, and instead celebrate all that is good in our lives? Or, if we can’t shake it off, how do we use the comparison problem as a teachable moment: it’s not what you don’t have, rather, it’s about who you are and what you can be?

The second thought I’m struggling with is the fragility of life. The how, in a moment, it all changes. This comes from the news that, this weekend, the fiance of a family friend, a young man in his twenties, died alone and unexpectedly, leaving family and friends heartbroken. Even though I had never met him, I know the family he was to marry into in just a few short months and I know how deserving they all are for the happy beginning a new marriage brings and, especially, for love.

I’m sad for them. For him.

Stories about life’s fragility don’t actually make me more grateful or better able to respond to that comparison problem, though; they just make me scared. They make me worried about all of the things that could go wrong and how, without warning, life can go off course.

Holding onto that understanding of the deeper meaning of our lives and shaking off the instinct to compare and contrast can be, surprisingly, difficult. Perhaps we’re hardwired to do this. Perhaps it’s a defense mechanism–it’s easier to worry about that party you missed than what’s happening in Syria–or perhaps some of us are just better at keeping priorities front and center.

What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, 
pales in comparison to what lies inside of you. 
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Photo credit: jacob.caddy via photopin cc

One Response
  1. April 16, 2013