If there was one thing that would improve your parenting, it would be this: stop comparing yourself to others.
Easier said than done, right?
As parents, we compare ourselves and our kids to others. I naturally see the ways my friends are better parents than me. One is a better financial provider, another reads to his kids every night, one is more present when he is home, one consistently take his kids fishing and hunting and one coaches all his kids’ sports teams. Honestly, when find myself thinking about this I become envious and then I start “hatin’” on myself, as teens say. At some point I’ll conclude, “I’m not as good of a dad as my friends are. I should be more like them.”
Those thoughts negatively affect me, my boys, my wife and my friends.
I’m not aware of it when its happening. Yet it causes me to make comments, speak with a resentful undertone, give looks, say things, not say certain things, and send other verbal and nonverbal cues that the people close to me will see and hear. They, like me, are clueless to the psychological cocktail party going on in my head, but they know something’s off and suspect that they’ve done something to cause it.
They did. There were being themselves, while I thought I should be “themselves” too!
At the pattern repeats itself it hurts my closest relationships and my family and friends grow weary of reassuring my insecurities and get worn out from the frenetic energy associated with me trying to be someone I’m not. Ultimately it hurts me because I’m incongruent with what I have learned to be true about myself: I am broken and sinful, but I’m equally blessed, gifted and unique.
There are plenty of times when its appropriate to acknowledge my brokenness, through apologizing, making amends and working to improve as a parent. But that is not what’s happening in the comparison game. Comparing ourselves to others is much less about our honoring our darkness and more about us denying our light.
So, how do you stop comparing yourself to other parents?
Spending time in silence and solitude enables you to hear God’s authentic voice that has the power to name, validate and empower you. Many find rituals, meditation, and other spiritual disciplines helpful to reconnect with themselves. As Mother Teresa said so often during her life: “God speaks in the silence of the heart.”
Solicit Meaningful Feedback
Ask others what they see in you as a parent. Because it feels awkward and prideful, most people will never do this very simple task of asking others to help name their unique gifts. Ironically, pretending to be unremarkable is a very subtle form of arrogance called Narcissistic devaluing. We beat ourselves up, but deep down we really want people to compliment us and validate us. It takes great humility to ask others to name what they see as your gift. Ask your friends and even ask your kids what like or value most about you as a parent.
Journal or talk about jealousies.
Journalling is not for everybody, but you won’t know until you actually try it. I’ve learned that its very painful for people to verbally admit feeling jealous. If that’s true for you, and it probably is, write it down. Writing makes it real when its on paper. At first it stings, because no one wants to see themselves as jealous, which they perceive to be petty, but if you can sit with it for a few minutes, you’ll feel its power over you dissolving. Carl Jung said until you acknowledge what’s going on inside of you “it will direct your life and you will call it ‘fate’.”
Want to learn more about understanding and accepting yourself? Click here to check out Roy’s online retreat “Who am I? Learning to Understand, Accept and Share Your True Self”