The Influence of Comparison

It is easy to compare yourself to others, feeling as though another mom or dad, co-worker, or friend, has it all figured out and here you are falling short in all modes of your life. You question yourself in regards to how well you are parenting your child or children, your competence in your job and career, or your ability to nurture your relationship with your partner, while wondering where the hours of the day have gone. Through social media, you are exposed to flawless images of mothers that are perfectly styled, managing their own businesses, with children that appear to sleep seamlessly 8-10 hours each night, and that have loving, just as glamorous, spouses, while you are going on 3 days in a row without a shower, you may or may not have food somewhere in your hair, and you are wearing the same yoga pants that you have worn for the past 4 days. In comparing yourself to these images, you may wonder where you have gone wrong? How is it that these other people seem to have it figured out, yet you are struggling to keep your head above water? Well I am going to let you in on a little secret; none of us have it figured out. When comparing yourself to others, you are simply making yourself feel less than the amazing, talented, loving person that you are.

When I first started my career in education as a middle school teacher, I felt completely overwhelmed and questioned my ability to adequately fulfill the duties of my new role. I hadn’t gone to school to become a teacher and while the courses I completed to obtain a teaching certification were helpful, they didn’t fully prepare me for all that is thrown at you once you enter an actual classroom. As I began my first year, every moment felt as though I was two steps behind, trying my best to develop engaging, meaningful curriculum, managing a classroom, and mitigating the hormones of anywhere between fifteen and twenty 11-14 year olds, while maintaining my professional responsibilities as an educator within the district.

As I navigated my way through this first year, I found that I would often sink into the abyss of the comparison trap, viewing other teachers as being so much more prepared and confident than I felt I was. I would see my coworkers, many of which have children of their own that they are responsible for, arriving to school 10 minutes before they are required, carrying their lunch bags that contained delicious, yet nutritious meals, appearing well-rested, wearing perfect business casual attire, ready to take on the task of molding the minds of young children. Whereas, I on the other hand was struggling to simply arrive when I was scheduled to, often forgetting my packed lunch on the counter, looking exhausted, while wearing yoga pants as "stylish" leggings too many times to count! I couldn’t understand why these other individuals, who had hectic lives to manage outside of school, seemed to have it all figured out, leaving me to wonder if I was competent enough to be in this new role.

Fortunately, I was paired formally and informally with amazing mentors within my school building. After expressing these feelings to one of them, she compassionately said to me, “Many of the teachers in this building have been teaching for 10-15+ years. As a first year teacher, you can’t compare yourself to someone who has been in the field for that length of time. You are more than qualified and able to do this job, you simply have to believe in yourself and do the best YOU can.” Her kind words were exactly what I needed to hear and it enabled me to pull myself out of the great abyss of the comparison trap, allowing me to grow more confident in my role as a teacher. 

When you find that you too are tiptoeing along the slippery slope of comparison, I hope you can see that it won’t serve you in any way. Comparing yourself to others will only lead you to a dark hole of feeling inadequate and incompetent. In looking at those around you, whether in your personal life or through social media accounts you follow, kindly remind yourself that your perspective could very well be skewed. What is displayed by another person may not be the full scope of truth. Instead, it simply may be what they want you to see or what your own mind and thoughts are making you see. Each one of us is simply trying to do the best we can, in all aspects of our lives, and that is all that you can do as well. So remember this, even if you haven’t showered today, your child is still in their pajamas at 5 pm, and cereal might be on the table for dinner, you are doing just fine!