What We Don’t See When We Compare Ourselves to Others
Hello friends. We recently went on a camping trip to an absolutely beautiful lake. It looked perfect, just like other people’s lives might seem when we look at them from the outside. When we got there, we found ourselves in the middle of “Mosquitoville”. (I think they are the state bird in that area.) So what does camping and comparing ourselves to others have in common anyway? Read on to find out, but bring your flyswat. 😛
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*Whack, Whack* Where Did all these Mosquitoes Come From?
We recently went camping at an absolutely beautiful campground. We went up and made a day trip of it, looked at the lake. It looked perfect. There was even a little bench looking out near the water at the campsite that we picked out. The staff was very friendly and they even rented kayaks. How cute is that?! They did vaguely mention something about mosquitos being bad, but we blew it off. I mean, it’s summertime, right? Few citronella candles and we are all set!
We were excited when we pulled up to our campsite and began to set up. However rain was threatening, but we didn’t feel it was any big deal. We parked the camper and the kids went inside. We put out the awning and even tried out the new canopy that went up very easily over the picnic table. It did start raining by the time we were done, but it wasn’t pouring. We were not about to let a little rain ruin our trip.
After the rain…. That’s when it hit. That’s the moment that we realized why this gorgeous campground was not very crowded. We just thought it was because it was a weekday. But oh no… we were wrong. The attack started at dusk. You might think I am exaggerating, but I’m not. They came in swarms.
We had gone out to eat in town since it was raining, and the van was filled with probably 50 bloodthirsty mosquitos! They assaulted us on the way back. We were fresh meat and they knew it. I felt most sorry for my youngest son, who I had dressed in shorts. He was nearly crying by the time we arrived at Dollar General.
My husband armed himself as if he were preparing for war against thousands of tiny insects. We got 2 bottles of spray-on insect repellent for us, 4 bombs, and mist for outside. We busted out the insect repellent to spray on us as soon as we had paid and set foot out the door. All 4 of us sprayed down. They watched us with multifaceted eyes from inside the van, peering at us through the windshield.
We went back inside the van and swatted mosquitos all the way back to the campground. The repellent helped some, but it was clear this was not going to be an easy war.
The first bug bomb killed thousands. But what were thousands when the population seemed to be in the millions? Every night we sprayed. We did not set foot outside without spraying off with repellent first. Still, they came and they bit. Woe unto the person that left one speck of skin free of repellent! We didn’t even want to venture outside to cook! We did a lot of day trips and ate out way too much. I suppose that if you just looked at what we did,it looked like we were having a great time!
Persistent Little Buggers
Most of what we were doing was trying to escape the cursed mosquitos! We saw a sign in a diner that said: “Why didn’t Noah swat those 2 mosquitos?” We laughed at it and wondered the same thing. (I know, they are a good food source for a lot of animals. I’m sure they have a good reason for existing, but that’s hard to see when you are on the dinner menu.)
Finally, Saturday came. We did a few things and looked at a historic museum in a nearby town and then almost gladly, packed up camp and headed home. We surrender mosquitos! You can have this place! We agreed it would make a lovely spring or fall campground, but I doubt we will be back during the summer.
So What do Camping and Mosquitos Have to Do With Comparing Yourself to Others?
That lake and campground were positively beautiful. We did not see or notice the mosquitos when we visited. They were invisible to us. When we look at other people’s lives, they can look like that too. Other people’s lives can look so picturesque it makes us want what they have. It can send us into a phase where we compare ourselves to them. We might even visit with them and still see their lives as perfect.
What we don’t see are their mosquitos. What I mean by mosquitos is we don’t see the unique challenges that they face. We don’t see the things that keep them up at night. We don’t see what they have been through to get them to the place that they are now. Yes, their lives may look great from the outside, just like our campground did on the lake. It looked perfect.
What dominated our minds when we were camping was the mosquitos! We stayed up itching and scratching. They kept us up at night. None of us wanted to face them during the day either. Like mosquitos, other people’s problems and annoyances are often invisible.
Social Media is a Highlight Reel
Often, the only way we see into other’s lives is through social media. Let’s face it, we want that to look good most of the time. If I had posted my camping pictures on social media, they would look great! They would show us going to museums, visiting historic places, trying a new little hole in the wall diner. (We love doing that). You would have seen us swimming, laughing, hanging out as a family and having a great time. We did do all those things, it’s true.
The camping trip was not a total bust, but it could have been better. Now apply that same concept, to not just a camping trip, but an overall life.
If I’m going through something, I am most likely not going to post it all over social media. If I’m exhausted and at the end of my rope, if I’m worrying about something, I don’t put it on social media. Some people do, and that’s ok (to a point). However, that’s just not me. I keep those things more private. I think many people are the same. Some of my friends have gone through some pretty challenging times and not posted a word about it on social media.
Our public face is often much different than our private face.
Remember that when you look on social media, you are not seeing the whole story. All you see are the good times, and other highlights.
Why We Compare Ourselves to Others
There may be different reasons that we compare ourselves to others, but most of them boil down to one root cause: insecurity. Whether we are comparing ourselves up in an “I’m better” manner or down in an “I’m not as smart, pretty, etc” the habit can still be harmful. Neither of those ways is helpful because they are both based on insecurity. Friend, there is no one in the world that is quite like you. We each have our own strengths and weaknesses.
A friend of mine once told me “Our job as mothers is to celebrate our children’s strengths while trying to strengthen their weaknesses.” I love that and I think the very same thing can be said about ourselves. You have things that you are good at. You probably also have some areas that need work. Remember and enjoy the things that you are good at. Look to strengthen the weaknesses that you want to work on. There is nothing wrong with questing for self-improvement. In fact, I am a fan of lifelong learning and self-improvement.
Using Comparing Ourselves to Others to Find Qualities In Ourselves We Want to Work On
As Tami Walker said in her book “Love Yourself” the only good way to compare ourselves to others is by looking at the attribute we want to work on that we see in other people. For example, I went to the tire shop recently and had the best conversation with a friend and former classmate of mine. She was incredibly uplifting and encouraging! I saw in her a quality that I wanted.
Instead of saying “She is so much prettier and upbeat than I am. She has such a positive attitude, I wish I could be just like her.” I said to myself “Wow! I loved her positive and upbeat attitude. I’m going to work on letting mine shine through like she does.” Concentrate on the action or attribute that you want to improve, instead of wanting to be like another person.
You don’t need to be just like another person. You are special and unique just the way you are. Strive to be a better you.
To quote a book from my childhood: “Just be yourself. You are very loveable.”
You Are Unique and Have Your Own Gifts and Challenges. Don’t Borrow (or Wish For) Other People’s Mosquitos
Each one of us has our own unique gifts and our own unique purpose. Often times when we get to know those other people very well that look like they have a perfect life, we find it only looks perfect from the outside. Friends, there is NO ONE that I have met that has a perfect life. We all have problems (or our own mosquitos) to swat. No person is perfect either. We all mess up from time to time. We all make mistakes. What you don’t see when you compare yourself to others are the unique challenges that they face. When you compare yourself to others, you don’t see the “mosquitos” that they are privately battling.
I love the quote from the movie “Wonder” “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle and if you really want to see who people are, all you have to do is look.” I wonder how much we would compare ourselves to others if we took time to learn their whole story? Probably not nearly as much. Like our family, it might even send you running back to and appreciating your own life more than you thought possible.
P. S. I am now the proud owner of a bug zapper.