Although I’m a little behind schedule, I’m still participating in the 40-day Inner Mean Girl Cleanse.  This week, the trait we’re supposed to transform is comparison — the nonstop tendency we have to compare ourselves with everyone else and, of course, always come up short.  The assignment for the week was to become aware when comparison begins and to try to replace it with inspiration, appreciation and gratitude.  In other words, the intent is not to replace negative comparison with positive comparison (i.e. finding areas where you feel superior or better off than someone else), but rather to find inspiration from and appreciation for the person(s) you may be comparing yourself with and gratitude for what you already have in your life.

I didn’t get much into the transformational aspect of the assignment this week because I was sick, but I did spend plenty of time reflecting on where comparison arises for me.  Negative comparison is probably my most toxic self-sabotaging habit and the way in which my Inner Mean Girl can almost always “get me.”  There are three main areas where I compare myself incessantly, feel inferior in the comparison and end up feeling bad, if not terrible, about myself.  It’s painful even to write them down, but here they are:

  1. Writing.  Everywhere I turn it seems there is someone who is more disciplined, more dedicated, more talented, more creative, and therefore, more successful than I am.  You can read countless stories featuring the “superwoman” who became a successful author despite homeschooling eight children, coaching the Pee Wee soccer league, making a home-cooked meal every night, having her home featured in Architectural Digest, sitting on the Board of the Arts Outreach Program in her community, and founding and running her own nonprofit to help impoverished children in Africa.  Meanwhile there’s me, who can’t seem to overcome a large pile of laundry, much less any serious obstacles in my path to becoming a writer.  At least, that’s what my Inner Mean Girl would have me believe.  I know this kind of thinking chokes my spirit and my creativity, and I’m sure it comes from the fear I have of failing at writing, especially now that I’ve given up my “real” job.
  2. Housekeeping.  My Inner Mean Girl tells me that my house is a wreck compared to everyone else I know and that there’s no excuse for it.  She says I’ve never been a good housekeeper and never will be.  According to her, I’m lazy, unmotivated, scattered, unorganized, and all attempts to change those traits are futile.  Meanwhile, so many women I know have houses that are so beautifully kept up I truly can’t fathom how they manage it.  I know they don’t all have full-time housekeepers and landscapers.  In this area, especially, I know it’s completely pointless to compare myself to others because everyone’s schedules, priorities, and external circumstances are different.  Still, I can’t help but feel I should be doing a much better job every time I see the clutter that accumulates or the jungle that substitutes for our landscaping.
  3. Fitness/Physical Appearance.  What woman doesn’t have this one on her list?  In this case, I can tell you that this is one area where living in Boulder doesn’t help.  This place is teeming with über fit people.  I’m not kidding when I tell you that the mother of one of Em’s classmates, with three children herself, is a former Olympian who was once featured on the cover of Runner’s World.  I found that out when I sheepishly offered to help form a running club in the elementary school a couple of years ago.  I quickly handed her the baton.  After the meeting, I heard her tell her husband (also an Olympian) that she was just going to nip out for a quick ten-mile run.  Anyway, there are no shortage of people here with multiple Iron Man finishes, six-pack abs, zero body fat and perfect figures.  And that’s just the people in their sixties…  Lots of room for the Inner Mean Girl to thrash about the 30 extra pounds I’ve put on since high school, the jeans that fit just a bit too tight, the lines showing up around my eyes and the fact that I should be able to find time at least once a week for a run longer than 3 miles.  After that, she’ll sit me down for a chat about that cheeseburger I ate for dinner tonight.

The reason it was so painful for me to write these things down is because there is a big part of me that still believes the Inner Mean Girl is right on all of these counts.  I still have a lot of work to do before I’ll be able to adequately muzzle her.  I realized during my reflection this week that my Gratitude Sunday posts, and my gratitude practice in general, is one way that I work to combat these unnecessary and negative comparisons.  The rest (inspiration, appreciation) needs more focus.

One thing I am exceedingly grateful for, however, is that my Inner Mean Girl is pretty quiet on the subject of motherhood.  I’ve shut that down as a potential source of abuse.  I am not a perfect mother, and I make plenty of mistakes.  However, my children and their well-being has always been and always will be the top priority.  No matter how many mistakes I make with the kids, I know deep within myself that I am doing the very best job I can and that my children know how much they are loved.  Now if I could only take that wisdom and apply it to the other areas where I feel so woefully inadequate…

Tough subject, but in what areas of your life do you sabotage yourself with comparison and criticism?  Have you been able to get beyond it?  Are there areas that are untouched by comparison?

Categories: Inner Mean Girl · Tags: , ,

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7 Comments

  1. Great post . . . glad I don’t live in Boulder. LOL

    My inner mean girl (i.e., my inner critic) would ignore the 99 good things I did in a day and focus exclusively on the one “wrong” thing. She would then proceed to say things to me that I would not have allowed anyone else to say.

    I did get past it.

    I told her to SHUT UP. ; )

    Comparison is a waste of time and energy ~ for always there will be “greater” and “lesser” persons than yourself. Desiderata

    My goal is not to be better than anyone else . . . instead, I strive to be better than my previous self.

    Glad Jodi sent me this way. I’ve subscribed. ; )

    • nrhatch,

      Thanks for stopping by and subscribing. I am now doing likewise with your blog – right up my alley! I love the line about striving to be better than your previous self. That’s one comparison I can live with!

  2. Ah, comparison…. I’m with you on the writing front, there are so many people doing amazing things, so far ahead of where I am and I sometimes think that I’ll never get there. This kind of compounds with my parenting choices at times because I do spend most of my time with a babe in arms, or two – Natalie currently spends about 80% of the day in the wrap. I look around at all these ‘other people’ who have their babies sleeping in cots, whose babies sleep without needing their parents around, who have countless hours without holding a child and think that if I was that kind of mum, I’d have a spotless house and be doing so much more with my writing. I’d actually be losing some pregnancy weight. Everything would be shiny and our power bill would be less because I’d be physically capable of hanging out the washing and then rushing out to get it when it started raining instead of relying on the dryer.

    Ah well. It IS a choice I am making, and I am totally happy with that choice. Doesn’t stop my inner mean girl from comparing and telling me that it’s not the right choice, that I could be doing better…

    As the previous commenter said tho, it’s not about being better or worse than anyone, but about being the best you can be on any given day – and we all have off days 😉 those are the ones where that inner mean girl tends to pipe up.

    • Cassie, when I read your blog, I am always amazed at your dedication to your writing, no matter what else is going on, especially with an infant.

      It’s amazing how hard we are on ourselves, when others see us in a completely different light. It just goes to show you how WRONG that Inner Mean Girl is.

  3. My eyes are welling up reading this but that could be the eye strain after spending most of the afternoon on here (a rare treat indeed – Matthew is on a sleepover). First off all, this deals with two separate issues. The whole looking perfect, gym bunny lifestyle is much more predominate over here than in New Zealand where I used to live. I think you would love to live in NZ Julie, but hey ho, to be happy where you are you need to put the blinkers on. Us writers are all in the same boat. if we are at home we are perceived to be lazy. Some of my neighbours think I am so slack for just being at home with Hannah. I see no point in telling them I write, that might even make it worse. No one understands but us, so lets share tips whenever possible. I love what someone on writeoncon suggested about letting one thing go each week and swapping what that one thing is so you don’t get too behind in one area. I get pestered to join the gym and leave Hannah in the daycare there, my kiwi friends would be horrified. We used to run around like idiots getting our house work done in half the time and losing weight while rushing about, in order to do the fun stuff (like hit the beach, sometimes on the other side of the island, mid week too. Now I’m getting nostalgic swoons). So it’s a bit like that here except I dash around so that I have writing time.

  4. Hey Kanga (for that’s how I think of you :-)),

    You’re right. I WOULD love New Zealand. By the way, J.C. (above) is a writer in NZ. You guys should check out each others’ blogs.

    Anyway, having lived in England for a while, I know how culture differences can exacerbate the Inner Mean Girl’s already toxic tendencies. The U.S. must be the only country with an acronym for a Stay at home mom (SAHM). I’ve always despised the term myself. I don’t know many moms who stay at home – they’re always running around all over the place with their kids! As if trying to raise good, kind, decent children is slacking. What is more important than that?

    And yes, saying you’re a writer often doesn’t help because the next logical question is, “What have you published?” The reasons to beat ourselves up seemingly never end.

    I’m heartened by the response to this post, however. I think if all of us women were more open about how mean we are to ourselves, the rest of us could do a good job of stepping in to stem the tide. None of us would treat anyone we care about so badly as we treat ourselves.

    And that is why I’m doing this cleanse in the first place…

  5. Good on you Julie. I hope the cleanse is a long lasting thing and keep sharing with us 🙂

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