Hold On to Your Joy This Christmas: 4 Secrets to Pulling the Plug on Comparison
I eased up to the curb next to the perfectly manicured lawn.
I took a deep breath, looked up at the monstrous house, and pulled my imaginary big girl panties up.
Gavin, four years old at the time, was bobbing up and down, excited about his first play date. He waited impatiently while I fought with the car seat buckle that held Gage, my two year old, captive.
I met a mom, let’s call her Susan, at Gavin’s preschool. Gavin and her son, let’s call him Max, hit it off and she invited us over for a play date the week before Christmas.
Anxiety took over.
You see, I didn't feel worthy of a friendship with someone like Susan. Each morning when I dropped Gavin off at school I noticed her. She was dressed to the nines, not a hair out of place and perfect makeup.
And there I was each morning, breakfast remnants proudly displayed on my yoga pants and two days worth of dry shampoo holding my messy bun in place.
Susan greeted us at the door.
As the boys and I stepped in I focused on keeping my mouth closed and my chin off my chest. Her house was magnificent. Her Christmas tree stood tall in the corner, elegant ribbon wound around it and not a branch was left untouched by a glittery ornament. Christmas cookies and snacks waited for us on the bar.
I felt out of my league. I was a small town girl from Oklahoma married to my college sweetheart, now calling the big city of Houston home, living in our tiny starter house.
Dirty dishes in the sink most mornings, legos and Thomas the Train tracks littering the floor. Barely having the time to clean the crud out of my eyes each morning.
The boys ran off to play together. And I jumped right in with my system that I used to keep attention and focus off of me in these types of situations. My system of deflecting was simple. Ask her question after question about her.
This strategy worked beautifully for years, until I realized that my life was void of quality friendships. My lack of confidence held me captive, never letting someone see the real me.
Although this play date happened many years ago when my boys were much younger, I can still feel the emotions that ran through me that day. Feelings of self doubt, comparison, shame, you name it.
Because Susan liked things in order and I felt like I couldn't hold things together with two toddlers, I thought she was better at this gig than me. And she definitely must be happier than me. Her beautiful home surely was a testimony to that.
I looked around her festive home and decided I wasn't good enough. That my life, my Christmas traditions with my little family, weren't worthy of a grand life that I imagined Susan lived day in and day out.
Several weeks later, I was volunteering at Gavin's Valentine’s Day party and ran into Susan. I jumped into the normal pleasantries…”How are you? How was your Christmas? Do you all have plans for spring break?”
Tears filled her eyes. Susan told me she was getting a divorce.
In that moment, I realized that me comparing myself to her had not only stolen my joy but had kept me from getting to know the real Susan. The woman that not only needed a friend, but a confidant that would take the time to see the real her. My comparison, my feelings of shame about my "simple" life, kept me from being that for her.
That playdate many Christmas's ago taught me some important lessons about comparison.
Here are my four secrets to pulling the plug on comparison.
STOP COMPARING YOUR BEHIND THE SCENES TO SOMEONE ELSE'S HIGHLIGHT REEL
We have all been guilty of it.
Taking a picture of the kids playing in front of the Christmas tree. The frame of our camera blocks out the chaos that sits around the tree, showcasing only what we want our friends and family to see.
We post this picture on Facebook or Instagram with a sweet caption stating how much we love this time of year with our family.
What we leave out is the mound of laundry on the couch that needs folded. The dirty dishes in the sink. The toys that are strung out all over the floor just outside the frame of our picture.
All those years ago, I compared my behind the scenes to Susan's highlight reel. And because of that we both missed out on getting to know the real side of one another.
Remember that everyone has a behind the scenes that is a little bit messy.
BECOME INTIMATELY AWARE OF YOUR OWN BLESSINGS
Taking the time to reflect and count your own blessings will take the focus off of what you don’t have and put it on what you do have. Family, healthy kids, a roof over your head, a Savior that came to earth to prove that you are enough.
Make stopping and being grateful a practice this Christmas season. Now might be the perfect time to start a gratitude journal.
When we focus on the blessings in our lives, the shortcomings seem much less important.
PURSUE THE GREATER THINGS OF THE CHRISTMAS SEASON
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus. He wasn’t born in a fancy, perfectly decorated home, but a manger filled with animals and dirt and straw. He came to demonstrate perfect love.
Use this Christmas season to grow closer to your Savior and remember that he is truly why we celebrate. All of the other stuff will waste away, but Jesus is forever.
FOCUS ON YOUR PURPOSE
You were born with specific gifts. Focus on those gifts and use them for a bigger purpose. How can you bless others within your strengths and purpose this Christmas?
Write someone a special card telling them how important they are to you. Reach out to a single mom and invite her and her family over for Christmas dinner.
The more I live, the older I get, the more aware I am of the importance of living in my lane. Staying true to who God created me to be and being proud of that.
Overcoming comparison may seem like an impossible task. After all, we have become experts in the art of comparison.
But the secret to overcoming this nasty habit and feeling true joy during this Christmas season is to focus on the reason we celebrate Christmas in the first place. Jesus.
You can't stop comparing yourself simply by saying no more. It will try to weasel its way back in. Start with identifying your strengths, the things that bring you contentment, and be grateful for the blessings you have.
Your behind the scenes is just as it should be.