It seems 21st century families have migrated far from what appeared to be the simple Aussie way in the fifties. This is not a session of comparisonitis with families from the past and present or any other such saga, but a window into the world of realities that might not be familiar, or realities that we may be knee deep in right now – and how to push through.

Normal is an ideology some are straining towards or aspiring to be; yet around every corner is the amazing realisation that we are all different from each other, again and again and again. Unique is the word. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary it is:

  • Being the only one: SOLE
  • Being without a like or equal: UNEQUALED, PECULIAR, DISTINCT
  • Unusual

It makes ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ sound like insanity; yet so many of us have been stuck on that merry-go-round of comparisonitis for years. Melissa Ambrosini in her podcasts and book “Comparisonitis”, speaks extensively into this phenomenon, outlining the many years we waste comparing ourselves to other people, not just face-to-face, but especially on social media.

Recently I visited my beautiful daughter in the heart of the comparisonitis world in Manly NSW; just walking down the Corso and along the beach front was an incredible experience with this awareness in mind. I purposely took notice of people comparing themselves to each other, wondering all the while what life might be like behind the polished façade of their latest active wear or body baring bathers of men and women alike.

Are they escaping a reality that they did not want and if so, what is it that they go home to, I wondered;

  • a head full of memories of sexual abuse when they were a child
  • a wife who’s been sleeping around
  • a husband who’s emotionally neglecting his wife
  • family and domestic violence
  • workaholic parents who have no time for their children
  • individuals who live alone with no family support
  • a child with disabilities
  • a partner with severe mental illness
  • an aging parent with chronic disease
  • a baby with cancer
  • addictions of any kind: drugs, gambling, sex, eating disorders etc.

Where is normal in any of that? Illness, dysfunction and imperfection is COMMON to mankind; but there is no good normal here that any of us would want to have to deal with. Yet, despite the polished, sexy, hippy, bronzed, muscle pumped bodies we see walking around us or paraded on a screen, they are people like you and I who have ‘stuff’ to deal with that is not nice and we’d rather do without – but it’s there. The thing is, we don’t realise that when we are sucked into the vortex. Quite often those bodies or things we covet are an obsession to distract us so we can escape from our own realities – realities that we’d rather not deal with right now, just like many of us do at times.

We could all do with regular doses of perspective to help keep ourselves in our own lane, but how do we do this in a world that teaches us to self-distract and compare?

When we know WHO we are, we are less likely to compare ourselves. We have a purpose in life and we don’t have a minute to waste worrying about what others think about us, if we are better looking than someone else or if our house is modern enough. What we see can steer us in the wrong direction if we’re not careful. If we are appreciative of our life and see it as a gift, if we can be grateful for the wonder of our own lives, if we can appreciate our own uniqueness, we realise that we have qualities that no one else can offer the world around us, therefore we can celebrate the blessings of others without dying of envy and wishing we could have what they have. We can get on with fulfilling our purpose and enjoying the life we have right now. We can be more concerned with what kind of contribution or offering we can make, instead of what we can take.

How can we ever be content with ourselves if we don’t appreciate our uniqueness? How can we ever feel validated if we don’t position ourselves for it? Validation is important and it’s wonderful to be able to have our story heard by someone in the relevant context. Our stories matter, but if we’re too busy comparing ourselves, then we don’t give our stories permission to be heard because we’re too busy wanting to know about someone else’s story. We need to really grasp that we can never be someone else, or tell their story or live their life out in our own; yet we exhaust ourselves trying.

Managing my own battles with different distractions, I recently found and listened to a podcast which shone a whole new light on the subject for me. Nir Eyal has wrapped it all up for us in his book “in distract able” How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life. Increasing our awareness of the damage caused by these distractions can literally save your marriage and other significant relational connections with those you love, and help you to see yourself in your true light, therefore allowing you to also see your loved ones in their true light. Bingo! You can receive what you really want from life and love.

When did we ever come to the conclusion that we need to inform people we don’t even visit on a regular basis, that we don’t call on the phone or email, yet we call them ‘friends,’ know what we are having for breakfast every day? Or why do we need to know what other people are having for breakfast or what coffee they’re drinking? Are our lives that boring? If they are, then there’s our first clue, and if they’re not, there’s our second clue…..

Social media has become such a passive, slippery slope to the ignorant (and ignorance is not bliss, it’s dangerous). The wrong use of it is responsible for unnecessary division, apathy, neglect and abuse in catastrophic proportions. If we class ourselves as mature adults then we need to wake up to the reality and educate ourselves to the fact that these platforms have been designed just like a casino, with tactics to keep us online and mesmerise us, because the longer we stay on there, the more money ‘they’ make – and sadly, the more destruction is caused.

What I find sad and disturbing is that so many homes are photographed to be put on show, but the relationships and connections within are slowly starving. The need to ‘impress’ is greater than the desire to grow ourselves by quality conversations, reading books that would educate us or attending family counselling or marriage courses. These would provide us with the tools we need to flourish and thrive and actually secure our foundations with helpful tools to protect us through the fiery arguments or difficult circumstances that come our way; for the deeper happiness of joy.

Imagine the memories we could share and laugh about if we embraced our uniqueness and invested the time we usually waste on social media, into learning something new, telling someone how you really feel about them, being an accountability partner with someone trying to overcome an addiction, or visiting the lonely. We just might get to know the real person hiding inside. What a blessing we could be to ourselves and to others; that’s how we’re designed to be.

Imagine the humour that could return to us if we made room for it by not comparing ourselves to others, or being distracted by social media. Imagine how strong our connections could be and what resilience we could build, protecting us from being so defensive and super sensitive or finding fault so often. If that’s you, you’re not alone; but you don’t have to stay in that place. You can choose another way.

Looking within causes us to focus on lack, loss and limitation all too often. Try a win/win and take a genuine look outside yourself, to see what and who is out there and where you can make a difference in the life of someone else, instead of robbing yourself of precious time and, feel what it’s like to experience freedom.

I’m on this journey with you friend; you are not alone, but I hope like me, you’ll choose to constantly deal with it rather than let it deal with you and enjoy making your own normal. I would like to hear your story, click on the link if you’d like to make a plan of action and share your story with me.

Christine Buckley-Brennan
Life & Leadership Coach