The Comparison Trap
It started with the barrel curlers.
A few months ago, I discovered a well-known and beautiful Instagram mum with a huge following.
‘Watch my morning routine,’ her latest post stated.
I swiped up.
I found myself immersed in a calm and well-oiled morning routine. No-one was yelling ‘Put your shoes on!’ No-one left the house blatantly having fibbed about brushing their teeth or forgetting P.E. bags. Playing out before me was the holy grail of school runs.
During the morning routine, the said beautiful mum, woke before the children to apply her make-up and barrel curl her hair, which then fell around her shoulders in beautiful waves.
I subconsciously put my hand to my unmanageable mane and decided in that moment that the answer to all my morning routine woes, lay with those barrel curlers.
I was set on buying a pair. If I had those curlers my hair too would fall in soft tousled perfection around my shoulders and I too would leave the house with well-coffered children in tow. A calm and serene mother.
Feverish with the promise of the perfect morning routine, I raced out that day and bought a set. The next morning I woke early, excited to tease my hair into perfect motherhood.
Oh, how the Insta-Gods laughed. Soft tousled curls, no, no. I was delivered an even spikier, sticking out, wild mane. I looked more cave girl than glamour mum.
Cursing the 20 mins of my life I would never get back, I admitted defeat, unplugged the curlers and went to remind my children for the 74th billionth time to brush their teeth.
I had blindly led myself into the comparison trap.
Easily done, the glittery perfect bait is thrown in front of us on a daily basis.
The perfectly portrayed and highly curated lives of others that tempt us to question our own. Throwing a spotlight upon our own insecurities and leaving us making useless and ill-judged comparisons.
Sometimes the comparisons are beyond ridiculous but we still find ourselves making them.
I have a friend, who like me (until recently) is a Marketing Consultant. We have remarkably similar tastes in everything, from clothes and interiors, to food. However, this friend is a good 8 inches taller than me. Thus, standing next to her at a tiny 5ft 2, the following negative self-talk frequently runs through my consciousness.
“She is so sophisticated. Look how elegant and graceful she is. You look like a 12-year-old next to her Rosie. You probably sound like a 12-year-old too. I bet she is better at her role than you are because she is so sophisticated, I bet she is better respected…..blah blah blah…..”
Just typing that I want to give myself a good shake. Although that is exactly what happens. How ridiculous in retrospect. Why on earth would I take what is genetically impossible to do anything about and project my own insecurities onto it?
Because I fall foul of the comparison trap.
After barrel gate, I began to give the nature of comparisons more thought. What if we turn each negative comparative thought on its head?
What if my beautifully tall marketing friend actually thinks the exact opposite when we are stood together? “I always feel so lanky and awkward next to Rosie. Rosie never worries about looking creative….I bet she is more creative in her role than me, I’m not creative enough….blah blah blah….”
Flip the mirror and we see a totally different picture.
You see that’s the thing about comparisons. They are all based on smoke and mirrors, on what we perceive to be the truth. Even that information we pass through a series of internal ‘filters’ until we have twisted it into a form that feeds our negative self-talk.
We need to be aware of our own filters. Are we seeing and hearing those around us clearly and without bias or are we taking their words and moulding them into the shape of a large stick with which to beat ourselves with? Allowing ourselves, to all too easily slip down the synaptic slope into self-loathing.
Next time I catch myself comparing. I aim to stop and remind myself that almost all we see is an edited illusion. In order to uncover the magic… we need to hold up a mirror to it.