If you read my blog post “A Dose of Real Life,” (Where I revealed my recent diagnosis and some things I’ve been struggling with), you know that I am now trying to write a weekly “REAL LIFE” post that lets you in on what life is really like outside of Pinterest. These posts may never do well on Pinterest, but I hope they mean something to someone 🙂
Last week my 5-year old put on her tennis shoes and asked if I wanted to go “for a run” with her. I don’t think there’s a way to say no to that kind of cuteness, so off and running we went. Well, she used up all her energy in running past the first 5 houses, so our run turned into an evening stroll. As we passed one house in particular, she said, “No fair mom! Their rose-bush is way more pretty than ours!”
I couldn’t believe what I had just heard from a 5-year old.
“what do you mean?” I said. “I love our rose-bush!”
She continued with, “But ours is just red, and theirs is pink. And so pretty.”
Desperate to teach something, I mumbled off on how the neighbor’s rose-bush doesn’t make ours any less pretty, and how grateful I was that our neighbors had pretty rose bushes too so that we could admire beautiful things on our walk. But my thoughts continued long after our walk that evening.
We have lived in our home for only 6 months and our yard is one of my favorite things about our house. I was a little bit sad to see that my daughter was already letting someone else’s rose-bush overshadow something that I feel so grateful for, but I was also really grateful for the lesson…because I realized I do this same thing ALL. THE. TIME.
We all do to some level. I think we’ve all heard the quote,
“Comparison is the THIEF of joy”
And yet we compare anyway.
Before I found out I had Lyme Disease, I subconsciously compared myself all the time. These were some of my thoughts at various times,
“Why do you nap so much?“
“Why can’t you wake up early and go exercise like the other moms?“
“Why are you so lazy?“
“Why can’t you remember anything?“
“Your kids would be happier with someone else“
“Why can’t you make sure your kids have pretty hairstyles before you leave the house like other moms? Your kids are going to look back on pictures and think they were orphans.“
“Your kids just watched 2 hours of TV while you slept. Pull yourself together.“
and my personal favorite, “Your hair has been in a mom bun for a month now. You’re letting yourself go.”
While these thoughts may seem extreme, they didn’t all happen on the same day, or all at once….but I fully admit that each of them have come into my mind during some of my peak times of bad health.
Several months ago I went and saw a specialist and he chatted with me about how progressed my Lyme Disease was. He was the most compassionate doctor I have ever met with. He looked at my chart and kept saying things like, “I just don’t understand how you are here right now. How are you out of bed right now?” or “I’m so sorry you have dealt with these symptoms for so long. I’m still so amazed that you get out of bed. Your adrenals are shot. You’re pretty bad off. You’ve got to be so, so tired!”
In this moment, all of a sudden I was filled with self-compassion.
A peace filled my heart and my thoughts turned to, “You are strong. You get out of bed because you love your babies. You have no other choice but to keep fighting. You love them. You’re a great mom.” and “If you’ve been able to live while being this sick, think of how much better you will feel when you are healthy,” and, “You are just doing your best right now” and “You are so capable of fighting this.”
A little perspective changes everything!
The difference between these two moments was that of darkness and light. In my moments of comparison and unkindness to self, my will to live dwindled. However, in my moment of self-compassion I felt love and gratitude for my life, as well as motivation to be better. It’s the kind of feeling I imagine feeling in the presence of God. He who knows all and understands all, and loves each of us perfectly.
I’m totally anti bathroom selfies (and selfies in general), but I had to snap this picture one morning, because it was immediately after talking to myself out loud for the first time in my life and telling myself how amazing I was. I truly meant it that day, and the love and joy I felt was something I didn’t want to forget. So I took this selfie while I still had some tears in my eyes:
TIME FOR CHANGE
Ever since that moment, I’ve been actively practicing changing my thoughts and loving others for what they are able to do, while remaining kind to myself. The difference has been real genuine joy!
I read a book recently called,
In this book, the author explains the difference between guilt and shame.
Guilt can be explained in feelings of “I’ve done bad”
and Shame can be explained in feelings of “I AM BAD.”
The difference between the two effects our very outlook on life. Guilt can be a motivating feeling that leads us to make positive changes, however most of us give guilt a negative association because we associate it too closely with shame. And shame often comes from comparison.
I like to explain guilt as the feeling I get anytime I stray from who I really truly am. Guilt is my friendly reminder to turn back and be happy. Shame is when guilt turns to negative self-talk.
Here are a few examples that help explain the difference
Example #1: I Blew Up at My Husband
guilt-based thought: “That’s probably not something I should say to someone I love. I sometimes act that way when I am hungry, but it’s not who I really am. I just need to eat something. And practice being more aware of my triggers.”
Shame-based thought: “Why do I always lose my patience? I’m a horrible wife”
Example #2: I ate my feelings away….again.
guilt-based thought: “I’m observing that my body doesn’t feel good right now. What am I feeling? What could I do next time? These moments make great learning experiences. I’m grateful to my body for sending me signals to be more healthy. I want to treat my body better next time.”
Shame-based thought: “I’m ridiculous. I did it again. I was supposed to be eating healthy and I blew it. I might as well give up and eat whatever the crap I want, I’ve already failed.” (Proceeds to eat an entire sleeve of Oreos…)
Example #3: I was the only parent that didn’t send their 4-year old kid to soccer with a jacket
guilt-based thought: “Whoops! I think I’m packing myself too tight. Maybe I’ll keep a jacket in the car in case this happens again.”
Shame-based thought: “Everyone here probably things you are a loser mom! Your kid is freezing! How did you not think to know what the weather is going to be like?” (I am then distracted from the game because I have gone on to list off 5 other things I am currently sucking at….)
Creating examples like this in my head have helped me to really recognize the difference between guilt and shame. Shame doesn’t motivate positive change and neither does self-criticism. It does the opposite actually. But it makes sense. When have you ever been motivated by someone else’s criticism? The same applies to ourselves. If we want to reach our true potential and just be the amazing humans we were made to be, we have GOT to start noticing and praising our own goodness.
Don’t mistake self-kindness with pride. I have noticed that the more I practice self-care and compassion, the more love, understanding and empathy I have for others. Instead of comparison, I find myself giving others the benefit of the doubt that I’ve started offering myself.
Although my message has been long today, my wish is for those reading this to make the effort to practice more self-kindness and compassion.
Your rose bushes are perfect just the way they are. And so are you. Don’t go “thiefing” on your joy.