“Comparison is the thief of joy” – Theodore Roosevelt
I never really understood this quote. I mean, I understood the words but it didn’t resonate with me. I couldn’t relate to it, didn’t understand it in my bones. But this last year that’s changed, I began to know properly what it meant and it was the first topic that leapt onto my list of things to talk to you about.
Comparison has never previously been something I’ve battled with. I don’t know why. I never wished for different parents when everyone else did, I didn’t covet my friends’ wardrobes or holidays, I don’t feel less than enough when I visit friends in their amazing homes nor lust for a lifestyle that I’m not living. And, I’m not some sort of saint. It just never ever occurred to me to compare. I wonder if it’s because as a kid I truly absorbed my mothers mantra of “you can have/do anything, if you just put your mind to it” and I grew up believing that if I really wanted whatever it was that someone else had, it was a choice, not a problem. I really don’t know. What I do know is, that if I visit a home that I adore, I’m more likely to be motivated to come home and enthusiastically clean mine, than I am to feel bad about my old sofa and dated decor.
So, this past year, when I have caught myself playing the comparison game, comparing myself and my designs to others, it’s been as devastating to see that side of myself as it has been to feel the crushing emotions that comparison brings. It’s awful. And, I started to truly see comparison for what it is. The thief of joy.
I want to tell you that I’ve figured it all out. That I have a tried and true method for putting comparison back into it’s box and moving on full of self-worth, confidence and joy. But I don’t. This thing is a gremlin that hides behind the curtains for a bit then jumps out and bites even when I’m feeling particularly good.
I’m trying to dissect it. Trying to unpick it and make sense of what’s happening. I’ve talked about it with my mum and she expressed surprise to hear that I was feeling intimidated and unsure after comparing myself with others. She said it wasn’t the me that she knew. That made me feel better. Maybe if I can get some distance from this feeling, see it as something that’s affecting me, rather than a part of me, I might work out how to beat it. Because after all I am the same person. I’m not wallowing in self-pity and worthlessness – it’s just that sometimes, I’m caught off guard.
I’ve worked out when it mostly happens. First thing in the morning when I reach for my phone and scroll though instagram and someone young and fabulous posts a picture of their beautiful new design. Now, before we roll our eyes and talk about the downsides of scrolling through social media to start my day, I want to point out that it doesn’t happen every time. Just sometimes. And more often than not, whatever they’re doing is not something I would wear or design myself. So what is it all about?
I wonder if subconsciously I’m feeling nervous about my age? Maybe it’s all part of being aware that I am moving into a new phase of my life? Maybe it’s the frantic pace of social media and the feeling that life is moving so fast? Maybe it’s my nerves around figuring out my style? Or maybe, like my mum suggested, it’s about my naturally competitive nature? I’m competitive in a quiet sort of way. I love to see others succeed and feel super excited when they do but at the same time, their success makes me feel motivated to do well too. I guess that explains the whole cleaning my house thing I talked about.
My best guess is that it’s a combination of factors and perhaps I need to figure out how I’m feeling about being the mother of teenagers, how I can hold on to the pace of life that I want, how I can be gentle with myself about experimenting with ideas while I figure out which ones best represent “me” and how I can turn the negative energy I’ve been feeling into positive action. But mostly, being kind to myself and changing some of the self-talk that happens when my joy is stolen. I need to start talking to myself like I’d talk to a good friend.
Thank goodness, I know I’m not alone. I hear a lot of talk about comparison in the creative world and I expect it’s particularly relevant there because, to my surprise, I’ve found that producing creative work and making it public is a terrifically vulnerable thing to do. Self-doubt must come with the territory.
Before I go, I wanted to thank you all so much for your incredibly kind response to my last post announcing my return to blogging and my intention to talk about the uncomfortable feelings I’ve been experiencing. You are amazing and I’m so completely thrilled to have such a generous and fabulous community around Truly Myrtle. Thank you!
Now, tell me you understand Roosevelt’s quote too?!
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