Friday, March 10, 2017

Friday Musings: Is Comparing Yourself to Others Always a Bad Thing?

Be Inspired without comparing yourself to them

How to Walk the Line Between Being Inspired by Someone and Comparing Yourself to Them.

This article has been sitting in my “to be posted” pile for a while.  My original idea was going to be the kick off to an life experiment with my blog partner, Monica.  It was going to be titled "Bootcamp to Kick Me Out of My Comfort Zone”.  

The idea was that I would spend a week or so living like she did.  How was this crazy idea born? It was a moment when I was comparing my life to hers, and I was left feeling wanting.  It started with an innocent text exchange about me asking her to co-host with me (which she immediately said 'yes' to, while I took a few months to think it over), and M says, “I had dinner at this restaurant in Houston.  Met the owner, got his card.  The food was great.  It’s my new favorite place." 

Me: Wait, what?? You drove to the city? [Gasp]  On a Wednesday night? For dinner? With whom?

That’s when the tiny little voice of doubt starting asking, "Am I too comfortable?"  Monica is always out doing something, driving somewhere, while I am tucked under the covers reading a good book (Hey, it’s an exciting book!).  Maybe I was dug so far into my comfort zone that I was missing out on some fun and excitement, you know in real life, not in book life.  “Maybe I’ve become boring.”  Wait what, did I actually just text that out loud??? 

M’s response: Life is too short to be sitting still.  I love doing something all the time.  Today was basketball at the gym, lunch with my bff, a few hours in at the office, homework time with the kids, dinner with girlfriends  (My Head voice, in Houston??), then TV time with the hubby.  

In a desperate attempt to regain some peace of mind, and prove that I am not boring, I am not done!  I am still exciting, and can hang with the best of them (whoever “them” is), I throw out there, “I need to start a Friday Girl’s Night Out, once a month” 

M: “Great! Now that the gun club is dissolved, {My head voice: Gun Club, wtf???} I can do Fridays.

Me: Great!

M: …...but not this Friday {To myself: As if I could just drop everything and spontaneously go this Friday.  I have mentally to plan and prepare for it.  I can’t do that in a day or two}.

M:  I am going somewhere {My Head voice: of course…}

So, I thought up this bootcamp plan in an effort to jump start me out of this rut that I wasn’t actively acknowledging until I started getting a peek into M’s everyday life.  Was I living my life to the fullest?  Was I missing out on stuff I should be doing?  Would I have regrets later?  Are there regrets that I should be having, but I do so little that I am not even aware that I should be regretting how little I don’t do? (I tend to overanalyze sometimes).  Basically, your mini midlife crisis.  So far, since turning 40, I have had a couple of mini midlife crisis.  You know (if your 40-ish), 'what am I doing with my life?' kind of mid life crisis.  What legacy am I going to leave? Is my time running out on “fun”, starting a business, writing a book, living what is left of my life to the fullest?  Whatever worry is triggered for you at the realization that time is running out on some of the stuff that you thought you might always want to do. Your mortality has just become more real.   So what was the bootcamp that was going to save me from myself?  The idea was that I was going to live like Monica for a week.  Going to all the places that she goes to planned, spontaneous, everything.  I was going to grab life by horns, get out there and LIVE! 

I ran my proposal by Monica (which she thought would be so much fun), and we were ready to go. That was three weeks ago.  The thing is, right after I put it out there, I got this anxious feeling in my gut.  I was always too busy to make room for it (hey, that closet isn’t going to sort itself by function and color!!).  I mean, I have real responsibilities!!  That is the truth, but the greater truth is that if it were truly important, I would make the time.  The real truth is, I am an introvert, and that is okay. Monica is an extrovert, and that is okay too, but it’s not me.  I can't be her.

So let me take a sec to jump on my soapbox and clear up a few misconceptions about introverts and extroverts.  Introverts are not shy - because that is the first thing everyone says to me when this topic comes up (really, it does come up.  More than you would think). What being introverted means is that you internally process things, by yourself mostly, before sharing with others.  You may (or may not) like being with people, but in small groups, not generally large groups, but after you spending time with said people, you need some time to yourself to re-charge.  This is because introverts walk through the world overstimulated.  Everything is too much, too loud, too many people, etc. Extroverts are always under- stimulated, so they are always looking for excitement.  Both types are essential to the survival of mankind.

Picture this, a group of cavemen and woman in a cave (where else would cave people be?)  They are afraid to leave because stuff tries to eat them, they don’t have a way to defend themselves, they don’t know which plants kill you if you eat them, etc.  It’s a super dangerous world, and they should just stay in their little cave and be safe.   All that was brought to you by the introverted caveman.  This is very valuable advice and all true.  

Meanwhile, the extroverted cave people are getting cabin fever.  They are bored.  They relish some excitement.  Bring on the saber tooth tigers!  If there aren’t these folks, the cave gets overcrowded and we starve.  Introverts realize this and say, okay, if we must go, then take this crudely made spear at least.  Introverts and Extroverts need each other to survive.  So lesson #1…….

Know thyself, and accept and love you for who you are.  I know some of us are hard on ourselves so if it helps, imagine you are your child.  Parent yourself. Would you tell your child (or best friend), "You aren’t good enough as you are.  You need to do x, y, and z." (well maybe we do this sometimes as parents, but I hope it’s not the norm.) 

Know Yourself and Accept and Love you for who you are

You know that anxiousness in my gut?  Lesson 2……

Listen to your body. If you get queasy, or your back hurts or wherever anxiety shows up for you, pay attention to it.  If you don’t listen to the whispers you will soon be hearing the screams.  Body aches and pains often indicate stress.  Your body and mind are not separate entities.  They work together to keep you healthy and happy.  So if this is how you feel inside, then you need to stop and listen.
Anxiety, listen to your body
Anxiety, Listen to Your Body

These two lessons tell me when I am overextending myself all because I am comparing myself to someone who isn’t wired like me, or have the same responsibilities, and life that I do.  

Remember the beginning of this long ass story though.  I was already feeling like I was missing something.  That feeling of missing something can lead you down the path of unhealthy comparisons to others, even our dearest friends, and that my friends is a vicious circle of feeling down, comparing, feeling worse, more comparing, and wallowing in everyone’s great life on Facebook, etc.

Looking to others for inspiration when something needs to change is okay as long as you remember lesson 1, Know thyself and accept and love yourself, and lesson two listen to your body. I, for one am not so creative that I can come up with things on my own typically.  I am always taking some idea, or plan, or idea, or recipe and tinkering with it to make it better for me. I need to look to others for inspiration.  This, along with venturing outside of your comfort zone, is how we learn new things.  It is how we grow as human beings.  However, if you don’t keep lesson 1 and 2 in mind, then you are venturing into the zone of unhealthy comparing, and you need to step away from Pinterest, Facebook, the Supermom, and anything/one else that makes you feel less than okay, until you can pull your shit together.  Indulge in some self-care in the form of things that make me feel good.   A good book, a trashy television series, and my Ugg slippers, usually do the trick for me.  Maybe it's skydiving, rock climbing or roller derby for you.   Bonus lesson: have a list of go to items, guilty pleasures, whatever it is that you know will cheer you up.

When I did this (stepped away), I regrouped, and really thought about what it was that made me feel like I was missing out.  You know, it really came down to two things.  One is very trivial.  I missed dressing up sometimes.  Yoga pants are the bomb.  They can absorb that box of Girl Scout Thin Mints like nothing, but I missed looking pulled together sometimes (not all the time, because Cookies Season only lasts for a short time and I need those pants).  I never justified dressing up because I was never “going anywhere”.  The not so trivial thing, is that I really was too comfortable on my couch, and I was bored going out to the same places with my hubby.  So new plan, go out somewhere fun (that I can dress up a little for) with my girlfriends at least once a month, and shake up the date night scene with the hubs.  Think I can talk him into a painting class that involves adult beverages? I know I am on the right track because I don’t feel like I am about to have an anxiety attack (see our cute monkey friend above). Without taking a peek into my neighbors yard, so to speak, I never would have been inspired to get out of my rut.  Thus, I have successfully managed to walk the thin line between inspiration, leaving the comfort zone, but staying on the same continent, and not honoring who I am (for this week at least).   So, I leave you with this final thought..........

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