The Weeds That Trap Us: Thoughts on Comparison

@priii_barbosa

To know me is to know that I’m a hoarder of journals and scrap pieces of paper with ‘notes to self’ scribbled on them. I love reading the stories I used to write about where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. It’s a testament to how much things can change in a single year.

As I pulled my notebooks off the shelf and skimmed through the brittle pages, a multitude of memories flashed through my mind about the angsty struggles and insecurities I used to face. Hard conversations with friends exposing where I really put my worth. Having to say goodbye to someone before their chapter was truly finished. Playing small because I was too fearful of showing up. Watching other people live out the storyline I wanted for myself.

I say I ‘used to’ face these insecurities, but really, a lot of them are still flaring up in the present. Like babies that demand your full attention, these insecurities cry out and whinge until you start devoting all your energy to them.

The loudest of these is comparison.

Comparison has always been a struggle in my life, but I don’t think I ever truly understood how much damage it could inflict until two years ago.

Even to this very day, the memory of having to watch ‘my person’ get with someone else occasionally makes me cringe. I remember feeling overcome with despair as I watched on the sidelines while their storyline unfolded. It was like a tsunami of hurt and pain flooding through me. No survivors were found.

In the aftermath, and even after the punch to my gut had faded away, I couldn’t stop thinking about the girl he had chosen over me.

 “Is it because she’s prettier than me??”

“Is it because she’s smarter than me??”

“Is it because I’m not White??”

Like soldiers on a battlefield, I lined up every single one of our traits and began comparing them in an attempt to search for some sort of certainty. Some reasoning or explanation for why someone else, who was so painfully similar to me, was getting all the things I wanted.  

Every single thought was like a stab wound to my heart and mind- yet somehow, I couldn’t stop indulging in the belief that she must be better than me. As time went on, my uncontrollable urge to compare myself to her, and the inevitable thoughts of discontentment, mixed together to become a poisonous concoction of pain and anger. For months, I resented this person from afar and engaged in a tug-of-war battle in my head over who was better- me or her. Yet somehow, I was always the one losing.

Maybe you’ve never experienced comparison to the same angsty and dramatic extent. But replace my situation with a dream job prospect, a competitor in your business, or someone you follow on social media, and I bet you can start to recognise the discontent feeling that tells you you’re not enough.

Like weeds, comparison begins its lifespan so small and seemingly harmless that we’re initially dismissive of its existence. It starts off with a tiny twinge here, and a throbbing ache there. Its birthed from a small question, ‘why doesn’t my life look like theirs?’ and grows into a nutrient sucking force that wails ‘why aren’t I enough?’

You become wholeheartedly convinced that you’re inadequate and you’ll never measure up. You resolve to do whatever you can to close the gap between you and this idea of ‘enough,’ only to find it’s a never-ending uphill battle. For me, I became embroiled in the lie that I was destined to watch other people live out the story I always wanted.

Distrust and bitterness grow rampant when we continue to water the seeds of comparison. Left unchecked, it can entangle us in a never-ending cycle of wondering why other people have it better and easier than us. It can choke the life out of the dreams we’ve planted for ourselves and make us question if it’s even worth tending to our garden if someone else’s is just going to look better. It can be the driving force that compels us to keep striving to prove we’re worthy- only to leave us burnt out in the end.

Nobody wins when we engage in this battle of comparing ourselves to others.  Whether you’ve waged full-blown warfare against someone, or just made snarky digs at them in your mind, it’s a futile fight against the wrong enemy.

I think that comparison latches onto our hearts so easily because we want to become somebody. We just want to know that our efforts to make our lives meaningful, are going to pay off. So, when we see someone else get the things we want it can make us feel robbed. We wonder what’s wrong with us that we couldn’t achieve the same thing even with all our striving. Underlying all of this is the belief that other people deserve good things, but not us.

Two years on from that fateful event, I now know that what’s good for someone else, isn’t necessarily good for me. What one person perceives as a blessing, someone else is having to deal with the side effects that come alongside it.

Once I could separate myself from the poisonous fog that was clouding my mind, I could see that what I so desperately wanted was (thankfully) never supposed to be mine. I could see that, though my vison and goals looked similar to others, I was on my own, unique path that nobody else could claim.

Comparison is not something you conquer. It’s something you continuously acknowledge. I don’t think it’s something that we triumph over once and then move on with our lives without ever measuring ourselves again. Rather, we must intentionally uproot the lies every time it strikes our most vulnerable areas.

Although I’ve moved on from that event, I can still feel comparison’s snare around the parts of my life that I’ve invested in. I may not be competing for a legal job anymore, but I’m still wondering why other creative businesses are flourishing more than mine. I may not be competing for a guy’s attention, but I’m still fretting over why certain relationships in my life look different from other people’s.  

Comparison recently flared up again when I was scrolling through the posts of a writer I deeply admired on Instagram. Though I owe a lot of my bravery and wisdom to her, I couldn’t help but feel familiar twinges of discontentment whenever her posts popped up on my screen.

“I wish I could be as cool as her,” was the thought that kept circling through my mind as I watched her life play out on the screen.

‘Why is she making more of an impact than me?’

‘Why is she more successful than me?’

‘Why can’t I be more like her?’

It got to the point where I had to sit down over Skype and have a conversation with her about what I was feeling.

“I fear I’m trying to become too much like you and it’s manifesting itself in the way I write,” I told her.

“You’re not me and you never will be,” she told me. “You have you own stories to tell, and dreams and wisdom that’s yours and only yours. Focus on that.”

The lesson I learnt that day?

We were never created to be like someone else. We were never meant to follow someone else’s story. There is a plan and a path of your life that’s reserved for you and you only. Though you may be aspiring for the same things as him or her, and though they may have gotten it ‘first,’ it doesn’t detract from the truth that there’s something out there for you too.

There are stories only you can tell. There are gifts only you possess. It’s not a cliché to say you’re unique – it’s fact. You can’t compare two vastly different lives.

The irony is that, while you’re over here looking at another person’s life, someone else is probably wondering why they aren’t more like you.

And how heartbreaking would it be if you never discovered your full potential because you were too busy trying to imitate someone else.

So let me leave you with this, dear reader.

There is a seat for you at the table.

There is enough blessings and abundance in this world for both you and her to achieve the things you want.

Someone else’s success doesn’t take away the fact that there is so much purpose and impact running through your veins.

No amount of striving will change the fact that you’re already enough.

Though you may not see the path laid out before you, rest assured it’s there and it’s not going to be like everyone else’s.

How boring would it be if we all received the same things at the same time? What kind of storyline would that be? There wouldn’t be any room for redemption and triumph. No euphoric, uplifting thoughts of ‘it was all worth it.’

So how do you remove the weeds of comparison from your heart?

You unclench your fists and bless the other person. You stop thinking of them as someone to compete with, and wish them well on their journey. You pull on your gloves and start uprooting the lies that you are inadequate and that other people are better than you. You sow the seeds of truth that good things are on its way to you too.

I don’t promise it’ll be easy. There have been so many times where I have wished blessings over other people’s lives only to still feel angry the very next day. Even in the middle of writing this, I saw a post from someone else and got so triggered I had to stop writing.

But there is value in uprooting our tendency to compare. There’s gold in remembering who you are and the fact that you’re one of a kind.

You’re on your own journey babe, and nobody can steal that away from you.

Encouraging you always,

Ash xx


Hey you!
Need help conquering Wednesday’s? You’ve come to the right place! Enter your email below for wisdom and encouragement straight in your inbox to help you get over Humpday faster than the guy who never texted you back 

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

New here? These gems were written just for you!

Eyes on your lane

I have this terrible habit of reaching for my phone whenever I hit a rut in the writing process.

Whenever I’m racking my brain for the right words or can’t figure out how to weave my story together, I instinctively turn to Instagram for inspiration within the masses of selfies and motivational quotes. To counter this habit, someone recommended a productivity app that plants a digital tree when I can resist touching my phone for a specific period of time. So far, no trees have been planted.

The best thing about social media is I can watch the lives of people I admire and all the ways they’re making their mark on the world. The worst thing about social media is I can watch the lives of people I admire and all the ways they’re making their mark on the world.

Before I started writing in this space, I would enjoy trawling through the feeds of other writers and swoon over the way they could capture my feelings with their words. Reading their stories was like the first time I wore glasses. When I placed those plastic rimmed frames on my face, all the blobs and blurred lines in the distance sharpened into focus and I could see the all little details I never realised I was missing. Like how the colourful shapes in the storefront were actually teddy bears, and how the letter ‘a’ on the sign was actually a ‘d.’Their words soothed an ache within me that I never knew how to explain or how to fix, like how a toddler might point to his stomach and cry.

Now that I’m aspiring to do the same, I can’t help but feel twinges of envy after reading their beautifully crafted sentences and how their words sparked magic. I longed to be at the level where everyone I admired was.I wanted their perfect prose, their platform and people that support my writing – and I wanted it yesterday. I pretend it’s not there, but left unchecked, the spoonful of self-doubt along with a pinch of self-loathing soon becomes hard to swallow.

Underlying all of this is the desire to just hurry up and be ‘there’ already. Humble beginnings and baby steps are like poison ivy to those of us with big visions on our hearts. We itch and scratch and whine in frustration at the reminder that although we’re not where we want to be -other people are. Suddenly, bitterness and distrust can’t help but creep in when you see someone else living out your vision. 

***

It hit 31-degree’s last week.

It lasted two days and then the thunderstorms began.

While the sun was still out, my friend and I headed to the beach to make the most of the blue sky and our free time. As she got into the car,she began to complain about the fact that her packages hadn’t arrived.

“Aus Post told me it was going to get here by midday, and it’s still not here,” she grumbled. “Now I have to go all the way down to the post office to pick it up since I won’t be here to sign for it. This is so annoying!”

As dramatic as she sounded in the moment, I knew that I harboured the same frustration and discontentment. Although I claim to be competitive, the waiting game is one I would forfeit if it meant that I received my prize instantly.

In a world where express shipping is the default option and food arrives straight to your doorstep, we are conditioned to crave instant gratification. I know I’ve been easily tempted by the siren call of products that claim to give me a flatter stomach in five days and clear skin by two. I’ve stalked the feeds of the people I admire and assumed that so long as I perform X, Y and Z, I should be exactly where they are by next week.

I think many of us wish we could just order up our dream like an online delivery. We’d get a text when our dream has been dispatched from the warehouse and we could track its journey by watching the icon move along the timeline. We’d squeal in anticipation when we finally get an estimated time of delivery, and we’d run to the door as soon as we heard the postman pull up.  

I have a running list of suggestions to tell God on the way Life should work.

But for now, He hasn’t implemented any. We have no way of tracking how long we have to go or how long it’ll take till we attain our goal. The air of uncertainty only fuels our anxious minds, so when things inevitably hit a road block, we lose momentum and get dejected about the delay. 

We look at our journey and say, ‘Hey. You’re taking way longer than I expected. I asked for my dream to be delivered Amazon Prime style to my doorstep, but instead you’ve decided to get held up at the post office. I’d like my refund now.’

***

The hardest lesson for me to swallow is that the reason I’m ‘here’ and not ‘there’ is simply because I’m not ready yet.

There are skills that have yet to be developed, basics I still need to master, and experiences I have to overcome that will ultimately keep me sustained in the long run.  Above all is a God who keeps me in one spot to ensure that I learn to walk before I even think about running.

As desirable as an online delivery of our dream is, we forget that there’s beauty in the process and a better payoff in the waiting. None of the people I admire are instant successes. When I was scrolling on social media and consuming the posts of the writers I adored,I was looking at the culmination of a decade’s worth of work. A decade of sitting at the table with their butt in the chair, slamming their fingers on the keyboard until they produced stories that flowed.

But I know that as much as the waiting hurts, there’s an even bigger heartache when you watch someone else get their package first. My phone is full of the text messages, emails and phone calls about the heavy hearts and sink in our stomach my friends and I feel when we hear someone else got that job offer, the relationship status or the prestigious award.

The questions start to fire off in our brains:

Are there good things ahead for me?

Is there a purpose for me here?

Is everything that I’ve been working towards going to be worth it? 

My honest answer is that you are special. You do matter. And the thing you’re working for will pay off for you in the end. There’s so much influence and impact running through your veins that everything you touch is going to produce so much good in the world.

But I know this is real hard to believe when we’re consumed by the mentality that we’re in this Ultimate Race. The race where there’s only one prize for all seven billion of us, and we have to strap on our weapons and battle each other Hunger Games Style until we win. We end up tearing our eyes away from our goals and spend all our energy twisting and turning our necks to see who’s gaining momentum on us and wondering why someone else is faster, better or smarter than we are.

Perhaps I’m being too dramatic. All I know is that I can’t be the only one whose heart breaks a little when I see all the ways people are racing past and getting their prize while I’ve barely moved an inch. 

What I will say is that time gets wasted when we worry about who’s ahead of us. Time gets wasted when we are constantly turning our heads to see who our competition is or analyzing all the ways why they have what we want. 

We could either watch other people excel and neglect our own craft. Or we could focus on our own process and fight to believe the truth that while it might be their turn to reap the rewards now, one day it’ll be ours. 

Earlier this year, someone I looked up to purely because of the fact she seemed to have her future figured out, sent me a flurry of messages to vent about how she was doing everything ‘right’ but only getting minimal returns. Other people were coming up from behind and getting the opportunities she’d worked for, and anxiety was whispering that maybe this means she wasn’t cut out for her dream.

For the hearts that wonder why they aren’t ‘there’ yet or discouraged by watching other people ‘ahead,’ this is for you:

 “Take yourself out of the race,” I texted back. “You’re in a league of your own.”

Don’t look side to side for your inspiration. Just look straight ahead because that’s where you’re going.

Ahead.

Know anyone who may be in the dumps about their journey?  Share this post with them


Wednesday’s Just Got A Recharge!

When the fresh start to the week has worn off, but the weekend still feels ages away, you end up with humpday. This dreaded, in-between, mess of a day where time slows to a crawl and your weekend is delayed.

 Let’s be honest- nothing exciting ever happens to anyone on a Wednesday…

Except if you’re part of the Wednesday Club!

In just a click, you can look forward to me showing up in your inbox with a sprinkle of confetti* and encouragement to make humpday fly by so you’re closer to dancing on the weekends. 

I won’t be like your flaky Tinder date. I’ll show up on time, every time, with insightful conversation & a mission to leave you feeling inspired.

So what are you waiting for?

Enter your email to receive confetti* and encouragement in your inbox every Humpday!

Searching for more? Check out these babies: