I read a post the other day from Emily Ley about people getting caught up by how other people compare themselves to other people. In this specific instance, they were talking about handmade Halloween costumes. Some people make their family elaborate Halloween costumes every year and sometimes when you look at something like that, you see yourself as a failure. You didn't do that. Maybe this mom has more time, or cares more, or is a better mom, and the list goes on. But what I loved about this post was the perspective that she brought to it. That mom that does the handmade costumes, that is how she is choosing to show love to her kids. Another mom in her example bakes her kids' birthday cake from scratch every year, and Emily, she does neither but she organizes and decorates her kid's room, making it a cozy, well-loved place for them. All of these different ways that these different moms show their love to their people.
I have so been there before. Thankfully, it was awhile ago when I used to do this comparison game with other parents, but I sure remember it vividly. I didn't just want to be like one specific mom (or wife, friend, daughter, co-worker, etc). I wanted to be the best part of all of those people. The unrealistic version of a person that is the friend that answers calls and comes to sit with you at home when you are lonely, the wife that cooks the best dinners for her husband, and the mom that crafts and bakes and has fun... all of it. I couldn't see at the time that we all have our unique ways of speaking our love to people. I also couldn't see what the pictures didn't show. Like the mom crafting the Halloween costume probably wasn't caught up on laundry for the 2+ weeks while making the costume. I just saw the piece of good that they were putting out to the world and assuming all areas of their life was good. They were perfect, and I was not. I'm so thankful that growth, or age changed me and I mostly stopped comparing myself to other people as much.
I have realized three invaluable things over the past few years that has allowed me to have peace when I see posts from other people. 1. Highlight reel. We all know it, but I don't know that we all feel it. We let ourselves feel like sting of unworthiness when we see other's succeeding in places that we don't. I just don't buy it anymore. Even celebrities.. definitely people with a lot of money... you are showing your highlight reel, what you think is best in your life, and while that is great, we know nothing about the stories behind those pictures. While I hope everyone's life is as great as it presents on social media, I know we all have pain and failures that lurk right behind every picture. There are so many things that we all deal with that I no longer wish for someone's good without thinking that maybe I couldn't handle their bad. 2. I'm insanely thankful for all that I have. I have a lot. More than I ever dreamed of and I don't take any of it for granted. But there are two things that are top priority for me that I actually have- health and happiness within my home. Because I have those two things, I will not be envious for anything. 3. It's really okay to cheer for other's for their successes. I know that is a common quote shared on social media for cheer for other people when they win even when we don't, but I think it is more common to not actually feel that way. We want to win. When other people win, when other people grow... it shines a light on all the ways that we aren't. It is different than just seeing the highlight reel or being thankful for what you do have because if it is an area that you do want to personally win or grow in, it sucks to see someone else closer to that journey than you are. They might have a backstory of heartache or whatever... but that ONE thing, you want it too but someone else has it first. #3 is a hard one and one that I am most proud to have mostly overcome. I see people further along in areas that I desperately want to be (some examples: faith, body confidence, patience, a best selling author), and there is a longing to be there too. But more than that, there is a happiness that they get to feel it. I still have a longing... but I know there is no such thing as competition between two people, just competition between who I am right now and who I want to become in the future. I can still cheer for their wins.
So going back to Emily Ley's post about Halloween costumes because I used to be the mom that tried to make Halloween costumes... and I used to be the person that would view it as more than a highlight reel. I would think that person is the perfect mom. I would forget all the things I have to be thankful for and instead just hyper-focus on what I didn't have. And last and worst, I would not be happy for that mom, but instead, I would secretly wish she would make a terrible costume and give up so I could look better than her. I read that post and didn't ask myself anything about that mom... but this time I asked myself, how do I love my people? How do I show up and love all of my people in my own ways?
This is what I came up with:
- My family knows they will have a (mostly) clean home to come home to. They know our house is welcoming and free from chaos in our very busy life.
-I will listen to you. And I will care about you and ask if you need to talk through a problem. I am not one to call or come over (unless you ask. Ehem, very busy life ^) but I will always be there to listen and answer the call in a time of need.
-I write "love letters". Through texts, school lunch notes, dry-erase conversations, or cards... my love for you will show up in words.
-If I know something is sacred to you, it will be sacred for me.
I will show up for your important events. Even with a busy schedule, if a day is especially important to you, I will be there unless I absolutely cannot.
2 of my kids like activities together, so we do activities together. One likes conversations so we sit and talk. One likes snuggling, so we snuggle. Andy likes touch, so hugs and kisses often.
I will support your dreams and cheer you on in person.
I will plan an event for you.
I will send a gift or food in times of happiness or sadness.
-I will apologize first.
-My husband and kids: I may not make your costumes, make the best dinner, iron your clothes, or be slow to speak (or get an attitude)...but I will be there always. School events, sports events, pick-up line, work event, play-date, or to wake you up in the morning- you know you can count on me to be there.
It may not seem like much... but I encourage all of you to look for the ways YOU love your people. Every day we are bombarded with the ways other people show up in their life, and it may seem like all that does for you is points out the ways that you aren't. But I think you are, in your own ways. Look for the ways you succeed and embrace them. Learn to love your strengths. Learn to love you.