In 2012, I deactivated my Facebook account. I went off the social media grid for almost a year. It wasn’t because of wrong use or conviction that it’s all evil; my reason was to heal from information overload.
I simply couldn’t keep up with all the friends, new babies, prayer requests for family members, event invitations, etc. etc. I didn’t know how to order my life off-line and my online life was moving too fast. I couldn’t keep up.
When I (very cautiously) came back online, I had a clear sense of the purpose for why I was engaging with the online community. I wanted to be inspired and to share encouragement. My soul tank had been filled while off-line and I finally felt ready to share my life again with others.
I’ll never forget the first time I read a blog post after such a long break, and the old feelings of wow, they sure have it all together, or I wish I could be like them were gone! In its place was a sense of connection and celebration. I was inspired without feeling like I had just lost a competition.
Because that’s how I used to feel after every single time I would compare myself to someone else. I don’t have a strong competitive drive, but that doesn’t mean that I like feeling like a loser.
When I came back online and started feeling more and more inspired by the good things other people were sharing, I realized that the problem with comparison was a really a miss directed problem with affirmation.
I wanted to be affirmed by comparing myself to someone else, and even though affirmation isn’t a bad thing either, entering into competition with the hopes of being the “winner” isn’t the right type of affirmation.
So here’s the deal: I don’t believe you can live life without comparison. I think it’s the motive and action that surround comparison that will make your heart healthy or unhealthy while comparing.
I think it is possible to selectively compare with freedom. But it takes time away from comparisons to understand yourself and to learn to celebrate and connect with others.
Here are the mental hoops I jump through when comparing myself to other homeschool moms:
Listen first. There are a lot of things that homeschool moms share with each other. Curriculum choices, learning styles, routines, schedules, extra curricular activities, etc. It is too easy to line myself up with their list before I’ve fully heard them out. If I begin to compare myself to them without listening to understand them then I have not only disrespected them by turning them into a competitor and not a friend, but I also have missed an opportunity to encourage them. Everyone needs to be listened to by someone who will support and encourage them.
Prize their uniqueness. After hearing them out, there will be things that I think I could never do – but they can do well! This is cause for celebration. It is their unique life that allows them this freedom to do different things than I can do. While there are many things I may be able to learn from them and try to do myself, I will never be able to live life just like they can. Prize them for that.
Ponder their creativity. I’m not very creative. So, I enjoy hearing about how others think outside the box. I’ve tried (and failed) in the past to copy and paste their creative things, and what a disappointment that has been. I now realize that comparing myself to the creative thing they do takes a lot of thought and adaptation. Sometimes it works to try someone else’s creative idea. If it works, celebrate them. Give them credit. It doesn’t make me less affirmed to make much of someone else.
Ask questions to further understand areas that may be replicated in my home. Like I said, no one can truly copy and paste. I have to know my own routine and nature well enough to adapt ideas to best fit my home. I had to learn to humble myself to ask the “dumb questions” in order to better determine if I could make their idea work for me.
Always remember that no one has the perfect life. When another mom, curriculum, child, or schedule sounds wonderful and I’m tempted to wish I could trade places, I have to remember that they have struggles and trials that I’ve never had to face before. I am not equipped to take on another person’s life. To want only the good and ignore the difficult only brings hurt and discouragement.
The freedom to compare is recognizing that I have a lot to learn from other people through connection with them, not competition.
Want to learn more? I’ll be sharing the final installment to this series on Monday when I share my “Day in the Homeschool Life” post (this post will be linked with SimpleHomeschool.net). Click here to read part 1: The Burden of Comparison.
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