On Comparisons, Windows, and Distorted Reflections

Photo Credit: Angie McMonigal Photogaphy
Photo Credit: Angie McMonigal Photogaphy

“I look out the window sometimes to seek the color of the shadows and the different greens in the trees, but when I get ready to paint I just close my eyes and imagine a scene.”
— Grandma Moses

Stephen King once said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”

And for a writer or blogger in today’s digital age, that means reading a lot of blogs, websites, Facebook posts, and – yes – books. We need to scour Facebook and social media not just to stay informed of the latest trends and hot topics, but also as a way to connect with other writers, communicate with readers, and learn from our mentors.

And while Facebook scrolling and blog reading and inspiration seeking can lead to some valuable friendships, helpful insights, and lots of creative inspiration – I’ll admit it – sometimes it makes me feel like crap. It can be an occupational hazard, with a high potential for comparison making. When I look out the window (or into my computer screen as it were) at other people lives and various goings-on, it is sometimes hard not to see my own reflection in the glass as dimmer and distorted by comparison.

This isn’t just a virtual phenomenon, nor is it something unique. I have written before about the Comparison Game here and here and here. And yet, despite all of my pep talks and introspection, here I am writing about my battles with comparisons… again. What can I say? It is a constant struggle and I am a work-in-progress.

Last night, before bed, I scribbled away in my journal some complaints and questions. How do I stop comparing? How do I figure out a way to look out the window in order to learn and connect without getting lost in the comparisons? How do I avoid focusing on the distorted view of my own reflection?

How?

Well, the short answer is: I don’t know. I still don’t have any big and profound answers. I don’t know how to completely quit the Comparison Game. I don’t know how to avoid getting lost in a cycle of lacking and never-good-enough-ness. I don’t know how to use social media as a tool, instead of a self-injuring weapon.

But the longer answer is: With a little practice, maybe I can figure out a way to compare just a little less. Maybe I can figure out a way to be just a little calmer and, if not more confident and assured, then at least a little more comfortable. Maybe I can find some peace in looking out the window without seeing a dim and distorted reflection.

Maybe.

Each and every time I have admitted that I am scared or sad or angry, the negativity of that emotion has been diffused. Each time I have acknowledged that I feel insecure and unsure of myself – whether I have written about it or talked about it – I’ve felt a little less insecure and a little safer afterwards. It seems that vulnerability and authenticity, while horribly uncomfortable at the time, always (okay, usually) led to connection, acceptance, and peace… in the end.

And so I am admitting here, publicly, that I am in the midst of a battle with comparisons, that I still feel like I was absent the day they handed out the Guidebook to Life’s Happiness, and that Facebook can make me feel like shit. That as much as I know I shouldn’t compare my behind the scenes to someone else’s highlight reel, as Steven Furtick famously said, I still fall prey to that vicious cycle from time to time. And that as much as I love looking out the window, watching and observing and learning, I often forget that the reflections in the glass are not a reality.

I am slowly learning (and frequently forgetting) that as nice as it is to look out the window – whether for inspiration or procrastination or entertainment – we need to close our eye and look inward too. And I can’t forget the second half of Stephen King’s advice: to write a lot. Nor can I forget the part that he didn’t include: That to do anything well – whether it is writing or teaching or painting – you need to live a lot.

We can’t spend so much time watching, studying, planning, and comparing that we forget to jump in and do something. We can’t spend so much time looking out the window – at other people’s lives, other people’s successes and failures – that we ignore our stories and stop living our own lives.

Because despite everything that Facebook and the Comparison Game would have us believe, within each of us is a beautiful and imperfect and utterly INCOMPARABLE person – not just a reflection of one.

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This post is part of the weekly Photo Inspiration Challenge.  Special thanks to Angie McMonigal Photography for her photos. Make sure to visit her website or facebook page. Her work is both stunning and inspirational.

 

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13 Comments

  • Favorite quote, “Comparison is the thief of Joy.” Soooo true. And your right, facebook sucks. While I’m not particularly competitive, facebook can bring out that in me. Ugh. Sometimes I uninstall it on my phone & ipad. Your right on in this post, living…really living…is the most enviable thing of all. This is one of my favorites. See you soon!

  • Thank you for putting into words what I could not. I too find myself in this comparison mode more often then I would like and it calms me to know I’m not alone in this internal battle.

  • So hard not to compare ourselves and it is so essential NOT to as we are all different with different gifts and interests. Another good quote I love on this is that we meet people in chapter 3. We don’t know what happened before (what struggles they’ve had) and we don’t know what’s coming next. We have our own books to live and continue to write and we can’t even control (many times) what comes next. Meaning, we have our stuff to worry about and simply cannot waste our time comparing to others.

    But yeah, easier said than done!
    Nina recently posted…Does Marriage Mean the End of Certain Friendships?My Profile

  • Christine,

    It is difficult to not compare. We all fall prey to it. But I remind myself that there is room for all of us. As much as I don’t like to hear it, appreciating the process and not focusing on the outcome is the best way for me to create without comparing. You may like this quote too:

    “Everyone is screwed up, broken, clingy, and scared, even the people who seem to have it more or less together. They are much more like you than you would believe. So try not to compare your insides to their outsides. Also, you can’t save, fix or rescue any of them, or get any of them sober. But radical self-care is quantum, and radiates out into the atmosphere, like a little fresh air. It is a huge gift to the world. When people respond by saying, “Well, isn’t she full of herself,” smile obliquely, like Mona Lisa, and make both of you a nice cup of tea.” – Anne Lamott
    Rudri Bhatt Patel recently posted…On FriendshipMy Profile

  • Who said this quote and exactly how it goes seems to be debatable, but it has really helped me: “Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if only those birds sang that sang the best.” It reminds me that it isn’t about being the best and that I don’t need to prove myself; I just need to do my part in creating that music.

  • Christie… I have been absent for soooooo long. Congratulations on your book! I put a copy in my cart. Reading your posts again make me realize how much I learn from you. I’m rough around the edges, and you are soothing, compassionate and a positive force. Reading your words softens my perspective. Thanks for that!

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