In my mind, I’m the “before” photo: slouchy posture, frumpy clothes, bad lighting, hair askew. And everyone else is the “after:” sleek and svelte, with perfect clothes and glowing lighting. They exude confidence and comfort in their own skin while I’m still growing into mine.
I’m speaking literally – I really do think that everyone else knows their shape and style (and owns it!) while I’m still playing dress-up – but figuratively, too.
I’m the mom who still hasn’t figured out, after 3 kids, what kinds of outings we can handle or how to deal with tantrums. Everyone else, on the other hand, knows their limits and can speak kindly to their children no matter the circumstances.
I’m the one who’s just putting on a show of knowing how to cook and eat well. But everyone else has had it figured out for years and doesn’t sound like a fraud every time they mention that they’re having a quinoa pilaf for dinner.
I’m the woman who still thinks she’s a teenager and couldn’t possibly be responsible for signing my child up for day camps or music lessons. Meanwhile, everyone else has matured to the point where they actually feel comfortable running the day camp.
Okay, so deep down, I know that isn’t entirely true. But it feels that way sometimes. I feel like I’m just starting to figure out how to be a smart, responsible, nurturing mom, only to notice that everyone else is already there.
In fact, the truth is that for most of us, we are comparing our “before” photos to everyone else’s “after.” We see ourselves in the worst light. We know all of our failings. We can feel the way our clothes fit on us and we know exactly where the fit is “wrong.” It makes us feel a little frumpy, a little inadequate, a little fraudulent.
And when we look at other people and compare, what we mostly see is what is great about them: the smooth, scar-free skin we wish we had, the easy laugh, the pants that seem to fit just right. But we’re not in their skin and we don’t know that they actually hate their laugh, and the only reason their pants look so great on them is because they are sucking in all the time.
And the truth is, that’s not fair to either of us. Imagining ourselves to be less than what we are is, obviously, diminishing. It holds us back from contributing as much as we could because we’re afraid of what others will think – and that we won’t compare favorably. But to assume that others have it together and are on top of the game keeps us from seeing that they, too, are struggling with something. Because everyone is. They become unapproachable in their “perfection,” when really, more likely than not, they could use some help – a kind word, a smile – as much as you could.
So next time you’re looking around the playgroup and feeling like you don’t belong, like everyone else has it figured out, just remember it’s an unfair comparison. You haven’t been in their clothes; you don’t know how they fit. Then give them a smile, sit up a little straighter, and remember that you are among friends.
image via istockphoto.com