What this statement means to us as mothers is that the more we view our lives as a percentage of someone else’s, the less happy we will be.
It starts as soon as we become pregnant. We worry, are we putting on more weight than Kim Kardashian or less weight than Victoria Beckham? Is our burgeoning bump too big or too small? Are our maternity clothes as stylish as Nina’s on ‘Offspring’? Is our morning sickness worse than Princess Kate’s?
It continues through childbirth: was our labour longer or shorter than our best friend’s? Was the birth natural and peaceful and a veritable spiritual awakening like, um, no one’s?
Then we move on to comparing the décor of the nursery, the way we feed our babies, what we feed them, how quickly we ‘bounce back’ and lose the baby weight, what pre/primary/high school we will send our children to. Who has the best husband? Who has the worst husband?
And while it’s probably obvious that comparing yourself to someone who is seemingly better off than you are will almost certainly make you feel bad, it is also the case that comparing yourself to someone who is worse off can sometimes work to your karmic disadvantage. ‘Well at least my husband doesn’t gamble/drink too much/snore’. Thinking like that just makes you feel temporarily superior and holds no compassion for the person you are comparing yourself to.
The antidote to soul destroying and joy sucking comparison is gratitude. Not gratitude for having a better house or healthier children than someone else, but rather gratitude for having a comfortable home and healthy children, full stop. If we were to spend more of our mental energy being grateful for what is, we would have less left to lament what is not.
Think of all the ways you feel bad about yourself or your life right now. Chances are a lot of it has to do with wishing you were more like someone else who has/does/owns more than you do. If we were figuratively deaf and blind to the lives of others, then how would we measure our own happiness? We’d be left to gauge how we feel based on, well, how we feel.
As we stop thinking of ourselves in relative terms, we can start to really analyse where we are, psychically and physically, right now. It’s a liberating thought – the thought that perhaps we are fine just the way we are.
As William Shakespeare said, “To thine own self be true”.
In the absence of any external benchmarks, the important thing is that we measure up to our own standards. And if we don’t, we have the power to make a change so that we do.
Do you compare yourself in some way to other mothers and end up feeling worse about yourself? Leave a comment below if that sounds like you.