We all do it. Even though we think we’re pretty good at motherhood, we still size ourselves up against other moms who are prettier, more fit, and are better at juggling it all.
“It’s human nature to compare ourselves,” said Diane Lang, a psychotherapist, author and positive living expert. Lang said moms compare themselves to others if they lack confidence, have low self-esteem, or it seems that another mom is doing something better. Comparing can also be a learned behavior or a result of unrealistic expectations we see in the media.
Although it’s normal, it’s definitely not healthy. According to a recent study in the Journal of Child and Family Studies, mothers who don’t feel they stack up to societal expectations and fear being criticized by others are prone to feeling shame. What’s more, comparing yourself to other moms can cause stress, envy, even depression. “Comparing is a no-win situation. Every time you compare yourself to somebody else, you’re setting yourself up for failure,” Lang said.
Ready to break the cycle? Here’s how:
1. Be realistic
Instead of focusing your energy on what you don’t have control over, work on what you do, Lang suggested. So if another stay-at-home mom you know also works part time, and you can swing the same arrangement, make it happen.
2. Don’t assume
Sure, that other mom looks like she has more money than you do, but that doesn’t mean she’s necessarily happier. “All people have shortcomings, challenges, disappointments and make mistakes and fail,” said Cynthia Occelli, a mom, business woman, life coach and author of Resurrecting Venus. “If you knew all there is to know about the other mother and saw yourself accurately, you’d probably feel very differently.”
3. Pat yourself on the back
“Instead of comparing or measuring ourselves against other moms, compare the woman you are today to the woman you used to be,” Occelli said. Make a list of your greatest accomplishments, both now and in the past, and give yourself credit for all the things you’re great at.
4. Be grateful
Rather than wishing your life was more like someone else’s, be grateful for what you do have. Occelli suggested making a gratitude list of 20 things you are grateful for each day.
5. Be present
We often compare ourselves because we’re not living in the moment and not enjoying where we are today. Sure, your past choices can provide a learning opportunity and planning for the future is okay, but if you’re living in the “here and now,” you’re less likely to be envious of someone else’s life and truly happy with your own, Lang said.
6. Re-frame your thinking
Sometimes comparing can actually motivate us to make positive change in our lives. So instead of wasting time thinking about how another mom has a better deal, Occelli suggested investing your energy into your own family and goals.
7. Send good vibes their way
Every time you catch yourself comparing yourself, wish the other mom good fortune. “Take a silent moment to be thankful and happy for every good thing they have and wish them more,” Occelli suggested. “What you put out comes back.”
Julie Revelant is a freelance writer and copywriter specializing in parenting, health, healthcare, nutrition, food and women's issues. She’s also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.