How I Beat the Comparison Game

I’m sure we’ve all come across the article(s) about the dangers of comparing ourselves with others, and the posts showing “real life” behind the perfect pictures. It’s always a feel-good read, and I’m reminded not to compare myself to the 100lb blogger with 5 kids and a six pack, but I inevitably fall back into the vicious cycle again of measuring myself to others.

Before I share some points, I need to explain how this all came to be. Scott and I got a puppy about two months ago, and I usually end up being the one to walk him a couple times a day. At first, this was cute, but after a while, it gets boring to just walk as your dog sniffs around, so I started listening to some podcasts to pass the time. I found myself slowly getting pulled towards self-help podcasts, and I find that all of the ones I’ve listened to I’ve twisted to helping me with this comparison issue I have, because although I’m giving this advice it’s still something that I’m working on. I am wickedly susceptible to the comparing game that happens on social media. I feel I’m constantly reminding myself that it’s only me I need to worry about, but it wasn’t until the last couple months after doing a few specific things that I’ve noticed a difference in how I view myself and have (started to) beat that nasty habit.

 Double Check Your Values

In a really interesting study, a couple psychologists discussed “Wishful Seeing”. I’m really bad, because every time I read something I twist it so that it applies to what I want at that moment (wishful seeing! Haha), so you may very well read the article and it comes across very differently, but this is essentially what I got from it: what is important to you will stand out more. I had listened to Emily Balcetis, one of the authors of the article, on a TED talk, which I’ll talk more about later, and it really got me thinking. I notice the perfect hair, bodies, clothes, or whatever because that’s what I’m wanting. I realized I needed to take a step back and re-evaluate where I put value. I had been sucked into the notion that appearances are more important than character. When I’m looking at social media I remind myself about what’s really important to me: integrity, honesty, kindness (none of which I am an emblem of, but maybe someday). It changed who I followed, who I looked at, and, actually, how much time I spent on it. Though, fitness accounts are still my weakness. I love a good transformation story, you guys. When I’m looking at a person’s post, and they look thin and their makeup perfectly done, I remind myself to look for the values I want. They’re posting a picture with their children? I respect that. You go and spend quality time with your family. It’s not about how you look, it’s about how you act, and that’s what I’m trying to focus on. What I wish for in my life I will undoubtedly seek, so I might as well wish for more substantial things.

 Maintain Your Own Vision

I work out (fairly) regularly, and find that I’m the kind of person who has to go to the gym. If I’m at home, I just end up watching a movie in my gym clothes and calling it a day. One day while walking Winston, I chose to listen to the TED talk “Why Some People Find Exercise Harder Than Others” because I was feeling like I wasn’t pushing myself very hard when I went, and seriously, exercising is hard for me. In it, Emily talks about the phrase “keep your eyes on the prize” and describes how people in a race who focused only on the finish line, instead of things happening on the sidelines, saw the finish line as 30% closer. Their goals were more attainable and there was no comparison with others. I needed to hear this. I oftentimes find myself working out, then noticing the insanely ripped girl in the corner doing handstand push ups and having my motivation slip quietly out the window. One day, I really thought about what my vision is. Where do I imagine myself being in a year? In a month? What were my goals for my job, for my body, for my relationships? I decided on my vision(s), and I repeatedly remind myself when I’m stuck in a rut of comparison that it doesn’t matter what’s happening on the sidelines, it matters what my finish line is; it matters what my vision is and not anyone else’s. I think it’s easy to compare when we are not totally engaged in our own goals. I find when I’m idle and aimless that I feel as though everyone around me is doing everything right and I’m just watching from the sidelines. I think when we have our own vision it’s also easier to be happier for other’s success. When we’re all anxiously engaged in something that feeling of competition fades away.

Keep A Growth Mindset

I could write about a growth mindset all freaking day. I am obsessed with the book “Mindset” by Carol Dweck. It changed how I taught, how I looked at my marriage, and how I looked at people in general. It essentially teaches that people with a “fixed” mindset, which, hint hint, is not a good thing, are ones who believe that the traits they have are just aspects of their personality and they can’t change that; they are unwilling to try to change who they are. They also give up at the first sign of challenge and simply deem anything difficult as “not their thing”. They are, in simple terms, afraid of failure, and will do whatever they can to avoid it.

Growth mindsets, however, see failure as a step in a process of learning. They recognize that to fail means to be challenged, and those challenging things pay off. It’s hard, don’t get me wrong, most of us have been thinking the other way our entire lives, but I find life much more satisfying when I accept that it’s okay to fail and to not be perfect. It’s good to not be the best and to try something different and make yourself look like a fool. It’s terrifying, but I have gained more from this mindset than I can even put into words. I was the kid who wouldn’t run in a track meet because I knew I wouldn’t win, or I wouldn’t take calculus because I didn’t think I could be the best. I have been so scared to fail my entire life, and I found that I was just constantly looking around envying everyone’s successes and holding it against them because I was so afraid of my failures. I remember after my first year of university calling my mom because I didn’t do well in my classes, mostly because I slept through them, and saying, “Why didn’t you let me do a year long course and call it a day?! I should’ve done something easy!” In her wisdom, she told me how happy I would be at the end of my schooling. It seemed so far away, but thankfully I trusted her. And you know what? I figured it out. It was challenging, and I definitely failed at many things, but I cherish the things I learned about myself at that time. Failing is good, and just because someone isn’t failing at the same things as you does not mean they aren’t failing at some thing. Instead of pitting yourself against the world, recognize that we’re all running very different races, and cheer for everyone.

And there you have it. Three things I have been working on. I think I could sum this entire spiel into one sentence: Focus on your finish line, and cheer on the other runners.



Superficial Happiness

The holidays always make me want to write. What is it about Christmas and family time that seems to clarify so many thoughts? Nonetheless, I had a very eye-opening experience this past week. It started on Friday, the day before Christmas Eve when I was wildly running around for presents. Before going into the season I adamantly told myself this would be a very relaxed, minimal Christmas, yet here I was impulse buying things neither Scott nor myself wanted to cram into our house. It wasn’t until I was standing in Superstore did I look around and acknowledge the anxiety seeping from me. I was unhappy, and it was because I felt the need to buy.  This need, to fill some void that we self-create, is so toxic, but we continuously fall into it. Why?

We all know I am fascinated by social media. The need to have people acknowledge and affirm one’s relationships, purchases, workout regime, and children is something I am continually trying to wrap my head around. I can’t tell you how many times I have deleted these apps only to come crawling back a few weeks later. It’s an addiction, really, and I wish we treated it like it is, but I digress. Lately, I have perused Instagram and seen that with Christmas comes the dreaded giveaway posts. I fall into this trap people; please don’t think I am immune to this. Just a week ago I spent 20 minutes liking and following a loop of people for products I wasn’t remotely interested in. I wasted precious holidays that I look forward to for quite some time so that I could shop for things I didn’t want or most likely wouldn’t get.

This is where self-awareness comes in and is desperately needed. This is where, while standing in the middle of Superstore looking at who knows what, I dropped the things I didn’t absolutely need and walked away. I drove straight to my parent’s house, held my niece, and thought that this is what I want in life. I left after a quick visit, met Scott at an old folk’s home where his grandma lives, sang Christmas songs with his family, and again thought to myself that this is what I want.

I don’t want the choker necklace, or the micro-bladed eyebrows, or the creepy lipstick that doesn’t seem to come off. So why the heck do I feel like I need to buy it? It’s social media. It’s the destructive social-powered machines that are telling you that you need to have a well-dressed toddler, do BBG workouts, and “eat clean” with the right things, and it is exhausting.

And this is the part where I address the mothers around me, because I will be one of you in the future (not an announcement), and I am terrified of the idea. The thought of joining your group gives me instant anxiety, and not because I will have an adorable red-haired baby. I am terrified because your group is the hardest of them all to keep up with. Your group seems simultaneously happy but unreachable all at the same time, and I am worried what will happen to me when I become one of you.

When did we need to start having a diaper bag that costs a middle-class worker’s daily pay? When did we need to get strollers that cost half of a paycheck? Who is saying that these are the best things out there to buy? And why are we believing them? I look at my life right now, and I know I won’t be able to afford to keep up with all of this, and that in part creates some feelings of failures. Even further, I know that I’m financially better off than some people who have these things, which, frankly, horrifies me.

Is having a certain life portrayed on Instagram and Facebook really making you happy? Are those 150 likes and 20 comments really your source of joy? I have started thinking about this. My need to show everyone that Scott and I are happy and to tell them what’s happening in my life. My need to show that I lost 5 pounds or that my hair is a new colour. To give monthly updates to strangers about my baby or pregnancy. To buy a new car, house, or living room set and remind everyone that I can use a plastic card at a checkout.

Whenever I’m unhappy, it’s usually because I have been swooped up into this notion that I am not enough and I do not have enough. So, I’ve done some research, and you’re welcome to join me in my future endeavors. I’ve started doing it a bit, and I can already see an improvement. Here’s what it is: every time I buy something, I ask myself the real reason I want it. The honest reason. For instance, I bought a turtleneck the other day, that I felt sort-of-partial to, and asked myself why I had done that. The answer I came to? I wanted people to see me as “sophisticated”. Ha! I’m still kicking myself over this. I bought something not because I loved it, but because I wanted to appear a certain way to a group of people, instead of just showing it through actions and words.

The other day I stood in Costco by a sectional, feeling anxious and unsettled, because I was worried the sets would be sold out. I had to buy the couch right then, I told myself, because I had waited 6 months for these couches to come back and today was the day I would buy it.

 … Then I started thinking: we could really use some new winter tires on the car, and let’s be real, the washer is most likely going to go out in the next 6 months. I stopped and asked myself, “Will I be happy I bought this tomorrow? Why am I actually buying this?” I realized that the only reason I wanted the couch was because I had a certain colour scheme I wanted to achieve in our living room. It wasn’t because our couches at home were worn out (they’re 2 years old), it was because I saw a colour, I saw a deal, and I wanted people to walk into our house and think that it looked good. Again, not buying because of necessity, buying because of social pressures I’ve placed on myself. Buying to fit with the trends. Buying stuff so that people would notice it.

I’m starting with purchases, but I want to transform this into my daily life. What is the real reason I check Instagram 10 times in an hour? What’s the real reason I binge watch Skin Wars in a day? I think it’s time we start being honest with ourselves. What’s the actual reason for what we do? Are we escaping? Are we chasing? Trying to keep up? Because for me, I don’t know about you, but for me, it’s because I don’t feel like I’m enough, and I’m really over that feeling.


Why Nerds Are Always the Happiest

Being in junior high brings up a lot of feelings: some crusty and forgotten, and some very, very fresh. It's hard to watch young kids each day desperately find some kind of identity. They're trying to fit in, to find what they're good at, and my heart goes out to them. No one wants to live through the woes of junior high twice, especially me. While this is difficult, I'm seeing a very interesting group of people blossom out of my classes: the nerds. Before we create an image of what they look like, let me first explain my definition of a nerd from a personal experience.

In my last year of school, I was sitting in a class with a bunch of overeager education students. Anyone who has been in the program can tell you that some of the classes are very, in my most endearing word, "fluffy"; all touchy-feely and truly painful to sit in. Each of us was to present something about ourselves in a given form to the class. I picked the safest route by simply showing an old picture of myself, quickly giving a spiel, and sitting down. Other people in my class were much more ambitious. One boy sang, one spoke Korean, one recited poetry, and one guy explained how he did Kendo (Japanese martial art that involves sticks) on the weekend. The Kendo guy stuck out to me. As I watched him swinging around his sticks, talking about his group of friends, and how they would go on the weekends and compete, one part of me sniggered thinking what a giant nerd he was. Why wasn't he embarrassed? You're almost 30 years old! Put the sticks down and do something respectable!

The other part of my brain didn't follow the same stream: I was intrigued. He looked absolutely, completely comfortable and happy with himself. There was no hint of hesitancy in sharing something that most other people would not consider a "cool" thing. I initially chalked this up to a lack of self-awareness in a social setting, but that didn't seem to fit. I realized this guy was a nerd, he was aware of it, and he enjoyed being one. My concept of a nerd dramatically changed that day. 

As I get older I am seeing a really interesting trend in my generation; it's something I call generic individuality. We wear things we wouldn't normally because we see a blogger wearing it, and we wear it before it becomes too popular. We go to places we wouldn't normally because we can post a picture of it. We exercise to post about it, we cook to show it off, and we create to display. We are consistently attempting to fit into an ever elusive group that has no leader. Trust me, it has its own personal pull on me. The other day I found myself thinking I needed a spiralizer to make zucchini noodles, but thankfully I reminded myself I hate zucchini. There is tremendous pressure to experience what everyone else is experiencing. The only problem with this is that I think it stops us from finding what we individually would enjoy. We miss the "nerd" opportunities! We don't get to geek out over things and thus feel obligated to semi-enjoy what the masses do. 

And this is where my group of student-nerds comes in. The happiest kids, and generally the most fun to be around, are those who have their own things. Part of this happiness comes from a sense of identity that they gain from their nerdisms- am I allowed to just make up words like that? They are so excited about something, and they have it as their own. They do not do it for publicity, or for recognition, they do it simply to enjoy. Nerds enjoy things, with little concern about why they need to enjoy it. It is simply theirs, and that's all that matters. No pictures, no videos. No one needs to know about it but them.

That has been my goal the last couple of months. I have been searching desperately for my nerdism. What's so fun about this is that I have found myself exposed to so many ideas and concepts that I was never willing to consider before because of some conceived notion of my identity. I feel like I'm starting to get to know myself again, and I'm starting to actually enjoy things. One day I read about honey bees, and now it's all I want to talk about with people. I love bees! With that has come a greater appreciation for the environment, and I have thoroughly enjoyed expanding my views. The best about this is that it has never been propelled by a social need but as a personal need. As someone who cannot handle stress in the least, this has been a saving grace. When life gets overwhelming, I go off and I get to explore things and find what makes me happy. It has been so fulfilling and refreshing, and I have found myself slowly starting to fit into what makes me a nerd.

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