December 30, 2017

Comparison: The Mommy Trap

Anxiety & Depression
Identity Development

“A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms.” Zen Shin

If you’re like most people, comparison is second nature. It’s a habit you probably developed from a young age and have carried with you into adulthood. You’ve probably fallen into the comparison trap in motherhood too. It’s natural to wonder how you’re doing and to look to others to compare.  As natural and common as comparison may be, as you’ve probably learned through your years of comparing yourself to others, it’s a double-edged sword. Within seconds, you can feel great about yourself or crushed. Comparison is incredibly powerful and can have a significant impact on mood, relationships, and self-image.

Why do so many people engage in comparison? I think we’re wired for it. I think we’re wired to want to know how we measure up to standards and the people around us provide a convenient and tangible reference point. It’s a relatively quick process and doesn’t require much work. Sometimes people engage in comparison to see what they can learn and what to improve. Sometimes people engage in comparison to get a quick ego boost. Whatever the reason, it can lead to a whole range of emotions, most of which are negative emotions.

You’ve probably heard it said that comparison is a trap, and it’s true. There are endless things to compare: weight loss after baby, formula feeding or breastfeeding, strollers, baby’s developmental milestones, and on and on. There are also endless opportunities to compare: among friends, in the grocery store, at the playground, at church, and on social media. Comparison is also a trap in that it can cause you to fixate on issues or differences that you might not otherwise be concerned about. It can distract you from the things you truly value and want to work towards in your life and family. When comparing, you can start to think that there’s one right way of doing things and forget that in most cases, there are lots of good options. Comparison can also trap you into feeling like you need to compete with other moms. It can lead to feeling anxious, frustrated, and hurt.

What are some of the areas you find yourself comparing with other moms? Are those things truly important to you? What are the things you want to focus on for your family? Identify the ways your social media use keeps you stuck in the comparison trap. In some ways social media can be a fun and meaningful way to connect with others. It can also be a fast track into the comparison trap. Keep in mind that social media is often a highlight reel and, while many people do share a lot of their life on social media, they do not share everything. When you compare yourself to other moms on social media or blogs, remember that you don’t get to see the whole picture. You might consider limiting your social media use or cutting down the number of mommy blogs you read.

Along these same lines, it’s also important to remember that there are a lot of factors that go into each decision a mom makes. Each one is caring for her loved ones in the unique circumstances, family makeup, and resources she has been given. You are not called to be another mom. You are the best mom for your children. As I mentioned earlier, comparison distracts you from what’s really important and can drain your mental and emotional energy. It can also make you feel lonely in a season of life when you can use the extra support. Comparison and competition can hinder connection. The good news is that you can break free from the comparison trap and start connecting. Don’t hesitate to call me today if you’re feeling stuck and want to break free.


Written by therapist Ndunge Marquardt

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