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  • Writer's pictureErika Bugbee, M.A.

"Comparison is the Thief of Joy": Parenting without the Distraction of Insecurity, Pressure, and Ego

Last night my friends and I were reminiscing about our first iPhones.

Initially I’d been resistant to the idea of Iphones for the same reason everyone else was. They were ridiculously expensive, excessive, and I figured it was a trend that would come and go (shows what I know).

I finally caved and bought an iPhone 3.

I was thrilled.

For about a month.

I remember the whole thing so vividly because just a few short weeks after I bought it, I checked out someone’s Iphone 4 (shout out to my good friend Cathy Casey).

In that second my whole outlook shifted from excitement to feeling soured and envious.

I went from focusing on everything it could do to everything it couldn’t do. From all the features it had to all the features it didn’t.

And that was where I landed. I set up camp and lived there.

Every time I went to charge my phone mid-day, I’d have the thought that if I had the iPhone 4, it would last all day.

For me, my thinking shifted from a mindset of appreciation to one of comparison.

Comparison is a game you can never win.

Teddy Roosevelt nailed it when he said “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

The timing was perfect because later that week, I had a client that fell into that comparison trap about her kids. It robbed her of almost every ounce of joy as a parent.

I shared my (somewhat humbling and embarrassing) story of my Iphone envy. We got to laugh at how easy it is to take something as trivial as an iPhone and use it to feel bad.

That’s the power of thought.

The mom I worked with, just like the mom in today’s video, had spent her first few years as a mom absolutely in love with her kids.

She lived in a state of wonder and appreciation.

She realized that shifted as they got older, but it had nothing to do with age.

She still loved them of course. But she found herself starting to compare them to other kids at restaurants, at school, at family visits, friend’s houses, and waiting rooms. Everywhere.

She went from feeling enamored and blissful about her kids to feeling concerned, self-conscious, and generally bogged down about them.

The subtle force of comparison is one of the most common, garden-variety forms of angst I see in my parenting clients.

What’s so great is that it’s also one of the quickest and most powerful sources of change for parents because if it’s something you do, once you look for it, you'll likely see it EVERYWHERE.

Which means that the opportunity for change is around every corner.

All you have to do is get a little insight into what the habit of comparison looks and feels like in you. And with a little patience, and a considerable sense of humor, it will self-correct on its own.

The client in today’s video, like so many parents I work with, lived in a culture of insecurity, pressure and ego as a mom.

To the parents living in those feelings, it can look like those feelings come from the situation they face – their troubled kid, or the challenges of raising kids in the era of social media and electronics.

But life doesn’t work that way.

Neither my excitement nor my disenchantment about my Iphone 3 came from the phone itself. Those feelings came from me. They came from my own thoughts brought to life.

As parents get more awake to how they’re using their minds, like how often they unknowingly and chronically slip into a comparison mindset, they naturally become more and more present and open over time.

Less distracted by noise in the system, and more engaged in parenting ‘in real time,’ parents become more tuned into their relationships with their kids, more responsive, and more receptive to their own common sense and wisdom.

That’s where our guidance as parents has a chance to come through, and where our connection and closeness to our kids has the opportunity to develop.

That’s what today’s video is all about.

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