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Don't You Dare Compare

Last week, I attended a really great fundraiser for children and adults with developmental disabilities and autism. Flannel and jeans were recommended, and there were bacon-wrapped hot dogs. I don’t even need to say more, do I? Perfection.

The woman who organized the event is a total sweetheart. She and I worked together when she was a receptionist assigned to supporting this Foundation, and I was running their events. She’s worked her way up to running the events herself and she knocked it out of the park with this one.

That night, we sipped our drinks and chatted about how fabulous the night was, and I asked her if she was enjoying her new role. She said she was, but that she sometimes thought about me. “Like, I love this and I’m having a great time, but it’s also a lot, you know? And I remember how you were always so calm, and it looked so easy, and I wonder why I can’t be more like that.”

I literally stared at her for a beat while my brain went, “Whaaaaa…”

I took a big breath and made sure she was really paying attention to me before I said: “You’re not comparing apples to apples. First of all, I don’t have children. You have three under the age of nine. Secondly, I wasn’t working full-time, I was a contractor – I worked part-time, and only seasonally. Of course it looked easier for me! I didn’t have half the responsibilities you have, nor did I have to spend the time you spend at work.”

I didn’t mention that my commute to work was literally 4 minutes through a residential area, and that I never went to work before 10am, and that I napped every day after work. I didn’t need to rub it in, but seriously, this was genuinely not apples to apples.

It was her turn to stare at me for a bit while her brain went, “Whaaaaa…”

Then it clicked and she let out this big exhale, a release of what I can only call self-criticism-induced shame. “Joce, I didn’t know that! God, you’re right. You’re totally right. Thanks for saying that.”

It's natural, this comparison thing. And understandable. We all want to be good at what we do, and we want to feel good while we do it. How else can we determine where we land on the scale if we’re not comparing ourselves to some kind of benchmark?

I get it. But it’s also deeply unhealthy. Because comparison is never fair, to anyone. Our strengths, our circumstances, our support networks, our weaknesses, our health, our financial situation, it all combines to create this unique blend of what makes us who we are. And that special sauce doesn’t make us better or worse, it just makes us ourselves.

The way I figure, if you have to compare, you should compare to who you were last month, or last year, or even this morning, if your day is particularly tough. These are the comparisons that matter. Where we see and celebrate our growth and our achievements, no matter how big or small.

She’s a fabulous event planner, just like I was. She has her challenges, just like I did. And we’re both a lot smarter, calmer and more capable than we were last year, the year before or the one before that.

You can be damn sure we raised our glasses to that.

small//shift: Don’t you dare compare. Who you are is the best thing about you. Find jobs, friends and lifestyles where your gifts are an asset and focus on you, boo. You’re doing great.

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