How To Avoid The Comparison Trap
I became a mom for the first time 6 years ago. This was before I had an iPhone or Pinterest. I was also the first of my friends that lived near me to have a baby. So, I didn’t have anything to compare what I was doing to. I still bought more than I should have and wanted to have everything perfect before the baby came. Now I have to find ways to avoid the comparison trap.
Even when I did have her, there still wasn’t much to compare to. I took her first 6 months of pictures at Sears. It wasn’t a popular thing yet to have a professional photographer take pictures like it is now. Now, I do love how pictures turn out now compared to Sears but my point is, I didn’t know any different at the time. Plus the pictures I get now are way cheaper than at Sears and look so much better!
I have never been the one that needed to keep up styles and have the newest and the best of anything. I am usually the one that likes something after it has been the “thing” for a year. For example, chevron. I hated it when it was first popular but it has grown on me since and I have a few things with chevron. Yet, I still struggle with comparison and jealousy.
AVOID YOUR TRIGGERS!
The first step in avoiding the comparison trap is know what your triggers are. What are the things that make you want to run out and do the same thing or make you feel jealous?
Think about how crazy things have gotten in just the past 6 years when it comes to holidays or special events. I think it is crazy to have EVERYTHING monogramed, party favors, or just as many presents for Easter as Christmas. Not to mention that I hear about kids getting up to $20 for a single tooth! I got a dollar at most when I was growing up.
I think for some it is all about saying “I’m a good mom” look what I did for my child. Then another mom sees it and thinks they have to do the same thing. This is what usually effects me. I don’t want my child to feel left out. I realize that is my struggle and I do my best to control it.
One example of this is the Elf on a Shelf. Yes we have one, not because everyone else has one but because I love Christmas and thought it would be a cool tradition. If I didn’t start it when I did, I would definitely want one now so my kid wouldn’t be left out.
However, now that I am doing it, I think about the kids that don’t have one. Are they going to think that they didn’t get an elf because they were bad or something like that? How many moms bought one just so their kid wasn’t left out?
I almost wish I didn’t start the tradition. I forget to move her all the time and she doesn’t do anything crazy. I really don’t understand what you do with a pooping elf all day anyway. Do you just leave it there all day or what? I really need to know!
Now let’s talk about Easter. I never got my kids any gifts when they were babies and too little to remember. I was absolutely shocked when my friends started having kids and I saw the pictures of all the items they got for their infants for Easter. I mean really, they are a baby and won’t remember it at all. Not to mention that Easter has nothing to do with gifts. My kids get a little bit of candy. Does this make me a bad mom? Will my kids resent me one day for “only” getting them candy for Easter?
I know people that have to have the special ordered monogrammed everything, including a shirt for every holiday. I get upset by all this because I know that these same people that do these things, have lots of debt and it causes other moms to feel like they have to do it also (including me). Trust me, a college is not going to ask if your child had a monogrammed shirt for Valentine’s day when they were 2 years old. They are however, going to ask how you are going to pay for it.
These shirts cost around $25 a piece. If you have 2 kids, that’s $50 per holiday. I can think of 5 holidays a year plus birthdays that my friends get shirts. That’s at least $300 in one year. Let’s say you do that at least until the child is 5, that’s $1500! Imagine putting that in a college fund instead.
Now in full disclosure, I get my kids monogrammed shirts for their birthday up until age 5. So, that costs me around $75 a year. I budget for this and consider it a keepsake. I don’t and have never did all the other holidays. Maybe it’s because I’m cheap or that I don’t have a bunch of family here I need to impress on holidays.
Ok, so now that I went on that rant, How to Avoid The Comparison Trap?
Limit Social Media
Is Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media, keeping you from reaching your financial goals? Do you have a friend that is constantly posting new this and that and it causes you to envy them? If so, that’s okay. I struggle with this also. If you are really struggling with it, unfollow that friend. They won’t know that you unfollowed them.
You can also go through your Pinterest account and delete boards or pins that make you tempted to spend money on frivolous things. Start pinning DIY ideas and things like that or delete Pinterest all together. There are a lot of ideas on there that don’t cost a lot money but it easy to get sucked into doing too much and spending too much on parties and things.
Set a Budget
I am currently struggling with comparison as I plan my baby shower. I really want a cute cake but it’s going to cost me over $115. It would be perfect with my theme and I can’t get it cheaper for the design. However, do I really want to spend that much money on a cake? The first step when spending money on anything is setting a budget. To learn how to set a budget, click here.
I started searching baby shower ideas and got sucked into Pinterest and all the cool stuff we could do. It is truly a struggle even for me. A lot of the ideas I have will be cheap and/or we can use in the baby’s room. I plan on setting a budget and if I can get the other stuff cheap then I can spend money on the cake. Even then, I am struggling with the price of the cake.
This isn’t the first time I have struggled with parties and wanting it to “look good”. I did go all out for both kids first birthdays, even did the expensive cake. In my defense the cakes were amazingly delicious. I said that I would only do that for their first birthday. I also fully acknowledged I was only doing it for myself and I was okay with that at the time.
Well then came my oldest’s fifth birthday. What was special about this one you might ask. Well we had family come in from out of state. We have never had family come in for any of my kids birthdays so to me it was big deal. I let the competition get to me and wanted to go all out because they were coming. Well I spent too much on cake and cookies and they were really nasty. I guess that’s what I get for being prideful and trying to impress people.
Choose Your Friends Wisely
If you can’t tell, I get upset about all the competition because it affects me and I know it affects others. We end up spending more money than we should for stuff we don’t need. Every other party we have done a cheap cake and the kids don’t notice or care for that matter. This last birthday, I didn’t even do ice cream. I don’t think the kids even noticed. I didn’t have a single kid ask me where the ice cream was at the party.
Now there may have been some moms who made comments later about my cheap party but you know what? I don’t care. I don’t want to be friends with people like that. I have plenty of friends that are cheap or cheaper really than I am. I love it because they help keep me grounded and focused on what’s important.
Choose friends that aren’t going to judge you or make fun of you because you didn’t spend more on party favors than the entire party itself. Choose friends that understand your priorities and aren’t going to judge you for it. If you have a friend that is really making you struggle, whether they mean to or not, limit your time around them. You can also unfollow them on social media. You can look at their posts when you feel like it.
Don’t let them disrail your long term goals. They may have more money than you or a ton of debt. Who knows, but just remember that they aren’t paying your bills. Don’t let them affect what you spend.
Decide What’s Most Important
This is what I do to help me from falling into the comparison trap and spending too much money. I decide what it most important to me. One thing that I always do because it is the most important to me is, taking lots of pictures.
When I was growing up, we moved a lot and a lot of our stuff got lost along the way, especially pictures. I only have a couple of pictures from when I was little. So, taking professional pictures and printing them is very important to me. I also do a yearly photo book. I usually make it and then wait until there is a sale to actually order it. I am actually a little behind in doing this because we were so intense in paying off debt. I hope in the next year to get caught back up on the books.
I also decided that monogrammed shirts until age 5 for birthdays and Christmas is important to me. I think of them as a keepsake. I don’t keep much since I’m not sentimental about toys and things like that. My husband is the opposite and would keep everything if I let him. I just decide what is most important to keep and get rid of the rest.
I also decided that I am not doing party favors. I think I did them for one party and that was enough. They are too expensive and yet cheap at the same time. I decided that was not something I want to spend my money on and I don’t. I have however, done other things for the kids. I have printed off free coloring pages and let them color. I have also had party blowers for the kids. I have something for the kids to do that is cheap but not to the extreme of party favors.
I have other friends that traveling is very important to them. They work extra and save to pay for it. People who may not know that they pay cash for the trip and work extra for it may get jealous about it. If traveling is what is important to you, find a way to do it. Save for it and pay cash for it.
What do you struggle with the most when it comes to the “comparison trap”? For me it is social media and seeing what others are doing. I have deleted and unfollowed people for this very reason. I know that it is a struggle for me and I do what I can to control it.
What do you do to avoid trying to keep up with everyone else?
Haute and Comely says
Great post. I am at the point when I need to do some serious budgeting. Great tips.
I always remember the quote, “Comparison is the root of all unhappiness.”
Easier said than done though, I just intensely focus on myself and my own life. I don’t get wrapped up in other people’s ish. I don’t spend hours scrolling pass their pics and wishing their life was my life. I’m building my own life. I think social media break is the best way to break this habit of comparison.
Also as a blogger, it’s easy to compare your beginning to someone’s 2 years or 10 years from now. I just do my own thing and stop worrying about “oh what’s she doing” or “oh her’s is so much better.” All that just = unhappiness.
Thanks for the advice,
Nadalie, It’s All You Boo
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Love this. Especially the part about choosing friends wisely. I once hung out with mums who were very competitive and always buying stuff and telling everyone what/why/how they bought this and that. Too much competition I just made myself unavailable bit by bit until they were out of my life. LOL.
I think establishing your own values and what really matters to you is a great way to fight the comparison trap. When you realize that holiday decorations or having the coolest Christmas sweater doesn’t matter to you, it’s easier to not even worry if Susie has the best sweater ever.
I think thinking about what is really important to you and just focusing on that can help fight the comparison trap. For me personally, I know this may sound a bit morbid, but also focusing on what you want your loved ones to be left with after you die (because everyone eventually does, right?) may help keep the focus on eternity instead of just the here and now.
Some really good reminders here. I see this all the time with friends of mine. They get very caught up in the competition and going overboard aspects and it doesn’t add anything to the holiday/ event etc. Thanks for the post.
Comparing sucks! It’s so hard not to do, no matter how hard you try. It’s human nature. I think it’s important that you try to take a step back and think about the important things in life and your blessings. I am in no way perfect at this though!
Thank you for this! It’s so important for kids to see that their parents don’t care about being “perfect”! Growing up, I knew my parents couldn’t give us everything we ever wanted and it made me that much more thankful for what we had.
Lisa Sell says
As a writer I am always trying to avoid falling into the comparison trap, particularly with well-established big authors. It’s just futile and a waste of energy. I can only be me.
I too, fell into the trap of social media comparison. I know that updates on social media are an inaccurate display of activity, yet I still compared. I’ve quit going on social media and stay in touch with my friends the old fashion way by texting or calling. I feel like I’ve created closer bonds with my friends that way as opposed to just “liking” their photos or updates.
You made so many good points! I am not yet a mom but I see my friends with kids and its like they are always trying to keep up with the next cool thing! It is so hard on the parents. And of course, money is always a souce of competion between adults. Thankfully I am a serious bugeter and my husband fully supports it so most of our friend follow suit. But man its hard!! I’m pinning this post to read again!
I was so guilty of the comparison game growing up. We had very little and drove through such rich neighbourhoods on the way to school. But i’ve learned that i enjoyed my toys just as much as those other kids did. I didn’t really need the newest one because that feeling wears off quick. now i’m in the opposite position trying to teach my son the same thing. only reverse
I’m so lucky that my son is almost 15 and I missed taking monthly photos, Instagram books etc. My little photo albums are probably retro now! Please don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Make sure that you’re happy and that your family is happy.
the wise hero says
Choosing friends wisely point is so important. I agree completely.
April Kitchens says
I enjoyed this post. I wrote a post on comparison a while ago. I definitely feel like being able to glance into other people’s lives can make us unhappy with own even if our lives are great. I like to try to remind myself that people on the internet mainly show the best parts of their lives. I also like to remember that someone could be comparing their lives to mine. Anywho, I like to unplug for a while if I feel myself getting sucked into the comparison trap.
I really need to avoid Pinterest around holidays. It’s so overwhelming and unrealistic.
Joy Domingo Gurtiza says
Yay! I need this! Comparing your selves to others has a lot to do on how you spend money. Thanks for a beautiful blog post. 🙂
Heather LeGuilloux says
Great post! It can be so easy to compare ourselves to others but in the end it doesn’t serve us (or our self-esteem) well. It’s good insight to have when comparison happens since it can pop up at any time, and how we can identify reasons against comparing ourselves to others and to be happy in our own skin.
This is a great post! I find it hard to balance out learning from others and comparing myself to others!
I don’t have kids but I watch my friends and it looks like it would be so hard not to compare each other
I read this great article the other day that was written by a psychiatrist. In it, she talked about how something that her patients always talk about when they talk about those in their lives that they love (their best friends, life partners, children, etc.) are all the ordinary things those people do that make them extraordinary and unique to them. Of spouses, things like “Whenever she sneezes, she does two tiny sneezes and one big one. It always makes me smile in the weirdest way! I love it!” or “I’d know my son’s laugh anywhere. It is my favorite sound.” or “He always goes out of his way to hold the door for people. He’s never in too much of a hurry to pick up the litter he sees on the street and put it in a trash can. I admire him for that.”
Meanwhile, her patients NEVER say things like this of their loved ones “I love how she got a 3.82 GPA in college.” or “She has the most toned arms. The minute I learned she had a six pack, I wanted her to be mine forever.” or “I love how she has thousands of instagram followers.”
And yet, when we think of ourselves in comparison to others, we compare that latter list of things. We compare material things, we compare vacation photos, we compare job statuses. Meanwhile those that love us ultimately really could care less.
So very true! Those are some great points!
Danielle Fairhurst says
Really great post! I don’t have kids but as a blogger I find it really hard to not compare myself to others and it can easily diminish my success when someone else has done better
Helene Choo says
Great post! I’d never actually thought of how comparisons could affect my bedgeting! Thanks for sharing:)