Comparisons: An Easy Trap

"Comparison is the thief of joy." 
- Theodore Roosevelt

We all fall victim to comparing ourselves to someone else at one time or another. However, I've noticed that pregnancy is an especially easy time to fall into the trap of comparison-making.

My first case-in-point: My belly, the most obvious and outward sign of pregnancy, is pretty unimpressive. Although I had already gained about 10 pounds after embarking on my IVF journey, it took me about 5 months to gain any weight at all with this pregnancy. At least one person a day would say to me, "You don't look pregnant!" All the while, women with beautiful beach-ball bellies float by at work, the store, etc. (I live in Utah, after all, where there are lots of pregnant women).

I started to worry. What if my baby isn't growing correctly? Is she doing ok in there? After having a miscarriage, the shoe-drop thinking still comes and goes... I bought a handheld Doppler machine to listen to the heartbeat regularly so that I could make sure. Even with this added reassurance, I tiptoed around with my tiny "beer belly" until my structural ultrasound showed that everything was developing normally.

Why did I let those comparisons stress me out so much? I already fall outside the normal realm of anatomical size for a woman at 6'1" tall, so why would I think that my belly would look the same as that of a woman who is 5'1"?

Additionally, I am guilty of quick comparisons when it comes to exercising while pregnant. My normal activity level has plummeted during my pregnancy, but I hear of women still running, weight training, rock climbing, etc. during the bulk of their gestational period. My energy level and frankly my motivation for such things has been quite low, but I sometimes feel a twinge of guilt about it. Why am I not like those other women? And HOW DO THEY DO IT?

Comparisons in any arena of life are an easy thing to find but a thoroughly unnecessary stressor, a sure path to the land of discontent. Our current culture of social media as well as ubiquitous regular media certainly don't help the situation. How can we deal with these ever-present opportunities for comparison? First, recognize comparison for what it is. As I've analogized with rock climbing, there will always be someone who "warms up on your project" - someone stronger, smarter, etc. than you are. Also, return to the discipline of gratitude, which takes constant practice. What positive things can I find in my situation? (Well, at least I won't have tons of stretch marks and I don't have horrible back pain from a ginormous baby bump!) Reframe what you're seeing. How can you draw inspiration instead of comparison? Use the growth mindset and learn from what others are doing instead.

What about you? What comparisons are your easy traps? Share them here!

Comments

  1. I thinks comparison can be healthy, but in a different situation. I try not to compare looks. I compare myself to other parents when I hear their stories. If I meet a parent who accomplishes more than I do, it is a great motivation for me to restructure, do more and differently. In your words, I draw inspiration. It helps me to know that mother of six can still do all the educational things with her children, that I strive to do. Most of those mothers I can learn from are stay at home though, and I cannot match their time investment, but its healthy for me to compare. I would not call it my traps anymore. I taught myself that it will take my children time to excel in certain area, I do not let others achievements upset me. But this is what you have ahead, for now enjoy your healthy pregnancy.

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    1. I didn't even address the problem of making comparisons in parenting. I'm sure it will be a challenge when I get there as well! I like that you use others' actions as motivation for thngs you can do differently.

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  2. Hi Dawn!

    I am so glad to hear your pregnancy is going well! I am a believer in the famous quote:"Comparison os the thief of joy". I am very prone to making comparisons and it only seemed to get worse when my kids were in activities and school. Fortunately my husband and kids really prescribe to the idea of not worrying about what other people are doing which helps to anchor me. Also, I was never blissful or comfortable during pregnancy and know that being short didn't help!

    I wish you all the best and will be in touch!
    Sara

    PS - I bought my own coloured pencils and adult colouring book. I have been busy with work and life so need to re-focus on self-care. Thanks! :-)

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    1. Thanks, Sara, and I love that you bought coloring supplies! I love that you also use your husband and kids as anchors to bring you back to reality in the world of comparing and perfectionism. I didn't think of it when writing, but I think I lean my husband for that as well because he doesn't tend to care what other people think!

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  3. And I heard, starting in my second trimester, "you must be having TWINS" "are you sure you're not ready to pop right now?". I heard it at least 3-5 times a day. So...yeah. Grass greener and all that in regards to that specific issue. In general, though, I agree 100% that comparison can be unhealthy (unless you are using others' examples for inspiration like the comment above). Don't worry about the exercise. Some women really feel energetic and have minimal symptoms during pregnancy---lucky for them, and great that they feel like exercising (and they often get comments about "working too hard" "need to take it easy" "not good for the baby").

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    1. Ana, you are not the first person I have heard that comment from about people thinking you were bigger than you should be in pregnancy! I hadn't thought of the flipside of "not doing enough" to stay active - people telling you you're doing too much as you mentioned. Good point! It always goes both ways.

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  4. Ah, the comparisons. So tough not to fall into that. I feel you on the exercise- thanks to fatigue, aches and pains of normal pregnancy, and time constraints, it's difficult to maintain the same level as pre-pregnancy. I at least tried to make myself walk a couple times per week, and then when I was off work for maternity leave I had time to go for walks or swim most days. Then the baby came (I'm 6 weeks postpartum), and my exercise levels went down to zero. Between the sleep-deprivation and frequent breastfeeding, it's tough to get out for long. I try to get out to run an errand or something to keep sane, but that's usually the extent of my activity. Some days I don't even leave the house. So I feel kinda gross with the lack of activity these days.

    Ultimately it's about finding a balance, as your blog is about. It's good to motivate oneself to do better, which hopefully comes from internal motivation as opposed to wanting to look like Heidi Klum after 4 kids. But it's also good to just be nice to yourself, because after all you're only human. So I hope to get more activity in the future, but for now I'm just taking it one day at a time.

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    1. That sounds very similar to me as far as the pregnancy exercise goes. We'll see what happens after I have the baby! I definitely already feel antsy to get my "body back" so I will need to temper that with good stress/sleep management as you mentioned.

      BTW congratulations on your baby boy!!!

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