Monday, June 06, 2016

The Slippery Slope of Comparison

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It's been almost three months since I quit my full-time job, and I'm just now coming down from the high of a life change. Once I was working from home, I barreled straight into a new on-ground teaching gig full of on-boarding procedure, a new course to teach, and lots of conference calls. I started lining up opportunities for the fall semester. I started running.

Only now, 74 days after the fact, am I really slowing. Summer has shifted in. The course I teach is coming to a close (before another one starts), and I should, perhaps, be at my most relaxed.

Afraid not. I've felt darkness and self-doubt creeping in and successfully ignored it, but today I felt the full force of it. I had to sit down and spill to my husband.

I knew these feelings would come, and now I have to face them down. I've been listening to the Running on Om podcast for a while now, and it speaks to me in a variety of ways. It prompts me to reflect deeply. Today, though, I slipped on the slope of comparison, and Running on Om prompted me to a deeper dive. To a fuller realization of stress. Of self-doubt.

Here's what got me. Living in a small town, I see and talk to a lot of people I grew up with. People who have made vastly different life choices, have taken a variety of paths. I realized a while back, that a person I genuinely like, with whom I've always had a really good relationship, is in a high position within the school district where we live. She's younger than me, is making more money than me, lives in a bigger house, drives a nicer car. Comparison put me in a bad place.

It's not that I begrudge her any of those things. She's been on a very specific path for the majority of her adult life. She's lived here and done one career which has taken her continually up the ladder. She's worked hard, and I'm certain she's very good at what she does.

My own choices have been very different, and it was in that moment of comparison that I had to start grappling with where my choices have brought me.


  • I have to come back to terms with my career choices. They have been nuanced and zig-zagged. I have vast experience, but it has not been linear. It has not been accumulated in one place. 
  • We don't own our house. It is not sizable or new. I've been a nomad criss-crossing the country, taking things as they come, sloughing off belongings until just a few years ago. 
  • My decision to leave my full-time position has stymied our real estate momentum

I feel guilty and less. I am emotionally taxed and tearful. Do I expect these things of other people in my life? No. Do I realistically think they mean a damn thing? No. But where you see yourself when you're young and where you end up as an adult can be so different. It's funny how those ideals hang on and resurface. Even when you think you've moved beyond them.

I'll be fine. I know that. I'm having a cupcake now and going to a family graduation ceremony tonight. I'll have a good, challenging run in the morning. I'll reflect and move on, but right this minute, the weight on my shoulders is heavy, and loosening the steam valve by posting here is necessary.


38 comments:

  1. You are such a smart, reflective badass, even when you're feeling at your lowest. You're right that you're going to come out of this, and I think taking the time to work through what you're actually feeling right now instead of just trying to push it to the side (like someone I know often does *cough*) is going to get you out of it that much faster.

    We're all here cheering for you and all the great changes you're making in your life!

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    1. Yeah, it's not pretty but it's necessary. Gotta feel it, accept it, move through it. Thank you for your support, Shaina! <3

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  2. Shaina already said it so well, so just... what she said. It's so hard to remember in the low moments how and why we are where we are, but it doesn't make where we are any less for it. And we're all here routing for you, and loving every minute of your journey.

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    1. Thank you, dear. I appreciate your kind words, and everything looks far better this morning.

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  3. Thank you for sharing this, Andi; I can certainly relate (hello, prison is kind of a setback in life - ha!) and all I can offer is that I'm here to support you in these moments!

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    1. Thank you for your support, Tara. I believe in sharing the good moments right along with the low ones, so here it is. <3

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  4. Woo, boy. For me, the worst "comparison" phase of my life came when I ended a longterm relationship (rather awfully, as it were) and my friends all seemed to be getting engaged. Though I truly was happy for them, it only cast a spotlight on my own broken heart. Jealousy made me a less-than-pretty version of myself . . . and it took a lot of emotional work for me to get beyond that.

    We all have tough moments, but you are awesome and sassy and bold -- you will, as you've already noted, push forward and get through. In the meantime, you are completely entitled to moments of doubt; we all have them. Just remember to lace up your shoes tomorrow, literally and figuratively, and stride forward like the inspiring lady you are! We all love you!

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    1. Thank you, Meg! Just gotta take the time to feel it, and when it feels like my head is going to explode from all of the thoughts, I figure it's time to write.

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  5. Life is so weird sometimes and comparison absolutely is the thief of joy. Sitting here, from the cramped confines of my work desk at lunch time, you look like you have it all together and I envy you (as in please come and do my make-up and handle my social media, pretty please!)!

    I go through similar thoughts as above often, only I'm not brave enough to write them down for fear of sharing (and then simultaneously worrying that no one would read it) - because self-doubt it awesome. But recognizing it is half the battle.

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    1. LOL, thank you, Rory. I was scared to post this. Does it make me look bratty or ungrateful? But those less-than-flattering moments are universal to us all so I figured it's only fair to share the whole picture.

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  6. There is nothing I can type here that won't be ridiculous. I am about to text your face off.

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    1. Thank you for your texts, friend. They lifted me right up.

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  7. Thank you for sharing Andi. Your personal posts always seem well-timed with things happening in my life (this is either eerie coincidence or I relate with them a LOT). I can only imagine how writing about these things happening makes it simultaneously cathartic and very real for you. You are so badass for confronting all of this head-on, and sharing it with the rest of us while you work through it. All I have to offer here is this: Know that you have your internet community to support you however and whenever you need, and we're all rooting for you.

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  8. I know exactly how you feel. Sometimes, even when we know better, we just can't help comparing and feeling low. I always try to remind myself that I have no idea how that perfect person I look at with envy is truly feeling. Probably that person you speak of with the great job, big house, and new car is feeling shitty too about something. Who knows, maybe she's jealous of YOU for having the guts to cut ties with a job that made you unhappy.

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  9. Comparison is a bitch. It gets you every time, no matter how well you prepare yourself beforehand. Someone is always better off, or at least seems so. There are also a lot of people doing much worse. If I get too busy, I tend to get resentful of those women who seem to have it all, AND have it all together. I know that to some, I am that person. I've been told this. I've been affectionately called a Stepford Wife. If they only knew. That pressures me too. Really?? You think I am that person when deep down inside, I know that I am absolutely not!

    I am going through a thing right now where I am panicking about financial stuff and right now, we are doing well. We are doing well and I am panicking. Makes no sense and it's caused me all sorts of grief. I often times just want to buy a tree house on the edge of the forest to live in. I was vegetarian for year. I could make it work. LOL.

    I guess what I am saying is that you aren't alone. We all have moments where we second guess our choices or feel like failures but that's not always the case. Rarely, actually.

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  10. Thank you for sharing Andi. "Loosening the steam valve by posting here is necessary" and your honesty has helped me connect to someone thoughtful and insightful today when I too am feeling quite low and disappointed in myself. This moment for you (and others) will pass like you said and I will be here on the other side of the screen ready for the celebrations.

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  11. I feel guilty and less. I am emotionally taxed and tearful.

    I can relate to this a lot. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  12. I have fallen into the comparison trap so many times, especially since I had to move back in with my mother in 2009 because of my disability. It is legitimately one of the hardest things in the world not to compare myself with other people my age, or even where I was 8 years ago. When I was basically bedridden a couple of years ago, I was pretty depressed. I played it off and I tried hard to look at the bright side of things, but it really took a lot out of me emotionally. The more progress I make on getting back some semblance of health, the less I feel the oppression of comparing myself to others. However, I still deal with it. I can't work enough to support myself, especially with all of my medical bills. I can't lose weight like I want to because of all the pain medicine I am on blocking my progress (this in itself makes me want to weep and then die). I don't have a lot going for me, but in other ways, I have a lot going for me and I have to remember those things - I'm smart, I'm funny, I am determined, I don't give up, I care about others, I own my car, I have a wonderful boyfriend and friends, my family doesn't completely suck. It is so, so, SO difficult not to compare ourselves. Just today I ran into a girl from high school at the gas station and I freaking avoided her because I had just worked out and did not look my best. She is still in shape after having 4 kids, has a great husband, nice house, etc., etc. She is super nice, but I still automatically compared myself to how she was doing, EVEN THOUGH I know her twins recently had to have surgery and her toddler was very ill for months and she had skin cancer recently removed. She has her own things going on and her life is not perfect yet I was scared and compared myself. When I think about it, how ridiculous was I being? I think sharing these times of doubt about ourselves will help us women to realize the slippery slope of comparison is just riddled with women. I think you are amazing and have a lot going for you. I think you will find many compare themselves to YOU, too. ((HUGS))

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  13. I felt a lot of this when I quit the job that was making me miserable - super high, major low, guilt, comparison, etc. Especially as I've been piecing things together with part-time jobs alongside kids who could be my students for the last two years. But I'm totally happy with where I landed and not for ONE SECOND do I regret leaving. I'm sure you'll end up feeling the same...it can just be a bumpy road on the way there.

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  14. Instead of comparing yourself to that young woman, compare yourself to someone who has less than you and I don't just mean materially. Remember there might be someone out there comparing themselves to you and coming out on the short end.

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  15. You have nothing to feel bad about. You've worked like a demon. The change is dramatic for you, I know, but comparing yourself to others is just pointless. There will always be people who have more than you or less than you. The Aussie phrase feels like the thing: You'll be right. Hang in there. You're amazing and eventually you will find where you need to be or adjust to where you are.

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  16. Comparison is not helpful. But I think allowing yourself to really feel the pain can help you work through the pain and make it to the other side. Kudos to you for allowing yourself to really feel it. Feel it. Accept it. When you gave up your job there was a loss of some things. (You gained a lot too.) But, it's ok to feel the pain of the losses that come with the decision.

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  17. As someone who quit her full time gig eight years ago, all I can say is you're doing everything right. You never stop learning tough lessons. You never stop doubting. You just decrease the amount of time you spend worrying when you encounter the inevitable slippery slopes because you learn to slide down them on faith. I read this quote today and think it might apply: "We'd achieve more if we chased our dreams instead of our competition." - Simon Sinek. Here's to chasing our dreams!

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    1. "You never stop learning tough lessons. You never stop doubting. You just decrease the amount of time you spend worrying when you encounter the inevitable slippery slopes because you learn to slide down them on faith."

      I feel like this can apply to so many areas of life—thank you for saying it!

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    2. Applicable in so many areas.

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  18. ((Hugs)) When I quit grad school because I knew it wasn't for me, I felt like a failure for years afterward. Sometimes you make decisions because you have to, and they're the right decisions, but that doesn't mean they're easy. Especially when they go against your plans or your ideals.

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  19. I know how you feel Andi. I wish for you to find inner peace and I hope you realise you're capable of a lot of things. You run a fantastic blog which you should be proud of. We all have these feeligs sometimes, but I hope it blows over soon and that you will find that you're unique and successful in your own way.

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  20. Andi, loved this post! I can totally relate. I swear, you are reading my mind lately.

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  21. This is a hard place. I've watched my brother with a PhD tell me how little he's accomplished in his life because he hasn't maintained a relationship or have kids, while I have those things but never even finished my undergrad degree. I think we have a tendency to compare life for life, rather than taking into account all the facts, and that means we always come out on bottom!

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  22. I hear this! ALL OF IT! I was telling a coworker the other day that I still haven't figured out what I want to do with my life. She looked confused and said, "but you've been in this career for 12 years and you have 3 kids." I realized that I see a plateaued career, debt, and a crummy apartment and other people see responsibility and success. We are our own worst critics! Have a good cry, an even better run, and continue to be bad ass.

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    1. Amen!! This is such a great comment... and all I can add is that I'm probably 20 years older than both of you and it doesn't change. We are surely our own worst critics. You are both amazing women! ((hugs))

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  23. I can relate, totally. I am going through quite a bit of this myself at the moment. I'm at the age now that all my friends are married, have kids and have settled into their careers - but here I am hustling two part time jobs and living with my mom just barely making ends meet. In comparison, a lot of those folks went straight into jobs and relationships after high school whereas I spent time exploring and just living life and having adventures that made me who I am but, the pressure is on from my family to conform to what is "appropriate" for my age in their eyes. I'm content in my two jobs because I enjoy them and they pay more than what a full time job would pay but I'm hounded by questions of "when will you just get a full time job?"

    I also haven't finished my undergraduate degree and I'm already 33 so I feel the heat there, too. I'm feeling pressure (from myself) to be sure that what I decide on is really what I want so I can hurry and finish and be an employable member of society.

    *sigh* I wish I had some encouraging words! Just keep your head up and do what works best for you. <3

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  24. Many hugs. It's hard sometimes to see people having things you want to have and don't -- as you say, it's not about begrudging them anything, just more about wanting to make small tweaks to your own life. But let it be said that you are an amazing lady and an awesome community builder, and whatever else is happening, we're so lucky to have you in the blogosphere. HUGS.

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  25. I agree with what Becca said, no doubt many people compare themselves to you.
    Me for one, for instance...I wish I could read as fast, write riveting reviews and the RUNNING! That's never gonna happen. I've got myself a bum knee. I'm estimating that I'm maybe 10 years older than you? Not sure. But I say run, run, run while the running is good! You are an inspiration Girl!

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  26. Honored that you tune into ROO! Thank you for speaking and writing your truth.

    In love & gratitude,
    Julia

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  27. oh Andi, I've totally been there and done that. And it is like slipping and sliding, cause once the thoughts come they carry you away like a mud slide. Your ability to acknowledge and share it and find ways to overcome are admirable and really all any of us can do in this kind of feeling. You will do more than survive it, you will thrive.

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  28. Andi, I don't think I can say how I feel about this any better than anyone else has already, but I would still like to say that I admire you and the decisions you've made to make yourself happier. I hope you feel better :)

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  29. Argh - no matter how hard we try not to compare ourselves and judge ourselves, we just can't seem to stop ourselves, can we? We just have to remember to take stock of all the great things we have in our lives. Just think, if you'd had a big mortgage payment, you wouldn't have been able to make this choice to walk away from the job that was making you miserable.

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