With social media at our finger tips, the comparison trap for moms has become an unavoidable challenge, often leaving us feeling inadequate, not good enough, guilty, or overwhelmed.
The best way to navigate the comparison trap in motherhood is to fully understand what it is, why it happens (and how it’s not your fault), and what you can do about it.
Getting Out Of The Comparison Trap For Moms
The first part of the comparison trap problem is increasing awareness of the actual problem.
Practically speaking, here is what the comparison trap looks like for so many moms:
- Comparing the milestones of your child with those of other kids their age.
- Feeling inadequate because other moms seem to have it all together on social media.
- Constantly measuring your parenting style against that of friends or family members.
- Feeling pressured to meet societal standards of the “perfect mom.”
- Comparing your post-pregnancy body to other mothers’ bodies.
- Judging your child’s academic performance based on other children’s achievements.
- Feeling guilty for not being as involved in school activities as other parents.
- Comparing your career progression with other working moms.
- Feeling inadequate in managing household chores compared to other moms.
- Comparing the behavior or manners of your child to those of others.
- Feeling like a failure when your child isn’t participating in as many extracurricular activities as others.
- Comparing the relationships your child has with their peers to those of other children.
- Feeling pressured to bake or cook like other moms for school events.
- Comparing the frequency or quality of family outings or vacations with others.
- Feeling inadequate because your child’s artwork or crafts aren’t as impressive as others’.
- Comparing the discipline techniques you use with other parents’ methods.
- Feeling judged for not breastfeeding or following specific parenting trends.
- Comparing the home environment or decor with other families.
- Feeling guilty for not being as involved in volunteer work or community activities as other parents.
- Comparing the amount of quality time spent with your child with other parents.
- Feeling inadequate because your child’s achievements don’t match up to other kids’.
- Comparing the nutritional choices you make for your family with those of others.
- Feeling pressured to throw elaborate birthday parties like other moms.
- Comparing your child’s athletic abilities with those of their peers.
- Feeling like an inferior mom because your child is struggling in a particular subject.
- Comparing your child’s behavior in public with other children’s behavior.
- Feeling inadequate because your family’s schedule or routine differs from others’.
- Comparing the parenting decisions you make with those of your partner or spouse.
- Feeling like you’re not doing enough to stimulate your child’s learning compared to other parents.
- Comparing the financial stability or resources you have for your family with others’.
- Feeling judged for the screen time or technology usage in your household compared to others.
- Comparing the achievements or talents of your child with those of siblings or cousins.
- Feeling pressured to participate in PTA or school committees like other parents.
- Comparing the health and wellness routines of your family with those of others.
- Feeling inadequate because your child isn’t as socially active as others.
- Comparing the independence or maturity level of your child with that of others.
- Feeling judged for parenting choices like co-sleeping or sleep training.
- Comparing the level of cleanliness or organization in your home with others’.
- Feeling like you’re not providing enough educational resources compared to other parents.
- Comparing the discipline or consequences you implement with those of other parents.
- Feeling pressured to involve your child in multiple hobbies or interests like other parents.
- Comparing your child’s talents or skills to those showcased by other kids.
- Feeling inadequate because your child’s wardrobe or fashion isn’t as trendy as others’.
- Comparing the language or communication skills of your child with those of peers.
- Feeling judged for the rules or boundaries you set for your family compared to others.
- Comparing the academic achievements or grades of your child with those of classmates.
- Feeling inadequate because your child’s interests or hobbies differ from others’.
- Comparing your family’s traditions or customs with those of other families.
- Feeling pressured to conform to certain parenting philosophies or methodologies.
- Comparing the behavior or achievements of your child with your own upbringing.
As you can see, the comparison trap encompasses SO MUCH, depending on your unique circumstances. There’s a wide variety in the scope of comparison, which makes it pervasive.
Understanding The Comparison Trap
There is psychology that explains why moms fall into the comparison trap—and why it’s not your fault!
At its core, the comparison trap stems from an inherent need for affirmation and validation. This is a healthy part of all human brains that are wired for survival. Your brain cares a lot about making sure you survive. Evolutionarily, that meant making sure you were included in the “pack” which is why that part of your brain looks to others in your peer group to see what they’re doing and how you match up. Unfortunately, this part of the brain that got us here in our modern lives, doesn’t quite understand that it’s no longer life or death to be included. In fact, variety, diversity, and differences are all ways we can live more full lives. However, your primitive brain doesn’t know this! That’s why it’s truly not your fault for falling into the comparison trap.
Combine this natural tendency with the world we live in today—a world bombarded by idealized portrayals of motherhood on social media, in movies, and through societal expectations—and the result is comparison at a level 100! The tendency to compare becomes almost second nature. Witnessing seemingly perfect depictions of other mothers’ lives creates an unspoken pressure to emulate and achieve similar standards. The fear of falling short of these perceived ideals leads to self-doubt and a persistent cycle of comparison.
Moreover, the comparison trap is intricately linked to your self-esteem and sense of identity. Moms often tie their worth and competence as parents to their children’s achievements or to meeting societal standards. This constant measuring against others’ seemingly flawless lives can erode self-confidence and foster feelings of inadequacy. Understanding this psychological underpinning is crucial to breaking free from the comparison cycle and fostering a healthier, more self-assured approach to motherhood. By recognizing these psychological mechanisms at play, moms can begin to reclaim their confidence, embrace their unique journey, and navigate parenthood with a more balanced perspective.
- 9 Positive Affirmations To Tell Yourself Everyday (blog post)
- Mama Mindset Mantras (free download)
- Overcoming Negative Self Talk As A Mom (podcast)
Recognizing Unrealistic Standards
To get started overcoming the comparison trap in motherhood, notice unrealistic standards by doing any of the following:
- Conscious Media Consumption: Be mindful of media portrayals and how they depict motherhood.
- Reflect on Personal Expectations: Identify ideals that feel unattainable or unrealistic in your own mind.
- Observe Peer Interactions: Notice conversations that perpetuate unrealistic standards among other moms.
- Journaling Practices: Write about feelings of pressure or comparison when they arise.
- Seek Diverse Perspectives: Connect with moms from various backgrounds to understand differing parenting experiences.
- Limit Social Media Exposure: Set boundaries on social media use to avoid constant exposure to idealized images of motherhood.
- Question Assumptions: Challenge societal norms and expectations regarding parenting roles and capabilities.
- Talk Openly with Friends: Engage in honest discussions about struggles and challenges in motherhood.
- Educate Yourself: Read articles or books that discuss the impact of societal pressures on mothers.
- Attend Support Groups: Join parenting support groups where moms share authentic experiences.
- Mindfulness Practices: Practice mindfulness to recognize and observe thoughts without judgment. (This is what we do inside the Membership.)
- Encourage Vulnerability: Create safe spaces for sharing insecurities and doubts among mom friends.
- Monitor Self-Talk: Be aware of negative self-talk related to unrealistic expectations.
- Analyze Advertising Messaging: Critically assess marketing messages targeting mothers.
- Self-Reflection Exercises: Regularly evaluate personal values and beliefs about motherhood.
- Seek Professional Help: Consider coaching for moms to navigate feelings of inadequacy.
- Engage in Self-Care Activities: Prioritize self-care to alleviate stress and foster self-awareness.
- Attend Parenting Workshops: Participate in workshops that address societal pressures on parenting.
- Connect with Role Models: Find and engage with mothers who embrace authenticity and imperfection.
- Practice Gratitude: Focus on what’s going well in your parenting journey rather than idealized standards.
- Evaluate Time Management: Assess if you’re allocating time based on realistic expectations.
- Create Realistic To-Do Lists: Set achievable daily goals rather than overwhelming yourself with an extensive list.
- Explore Alternative Parenting Styles: Learn about diverse parenting philosophies to broaden perspectives.
- Embrace Imperfection: Cultivate acceptance of imperfections in yourself and your parenting journey.
- Reframe Success: Redefine success in motherhood based on your values, not external expectations.
By implementing these strategies, you can actively recognize and become more aware of the unrealistic standards imposed by society, paving the way for a more balanced and authentic approach to motherhood so you don’t fall into the comparison trap so easily.
Practicing Gratitude in Motherhood
Practicing gratitude in motherhood creates a transformative power that counters the pervasive nature of comparison. Amidst the whirlwind of daily challenges and societal pressures, embracing gratitude becomes a tool that helps you shift perspectives and while fostering contentment in the present moment. It’s about acknowledging and appreciating the joys and blessings that come with the journey of raising kids, rather than fixating on perceived shortcomings or unmet expectations.
Gratitude acts as a potent antidote to the toxic effects of comparison. When you consciously cultivate gratitude, you redirect your focus from what you lack to what you have, which nurtures a sense of abundance. It allows you to celebrate the small victories, cherish moments of connection with your kids, and find beauty in the everyday routines that make up your parenting journey.
- Related: How To Practice Gratitude As A Mom (podcast)
Moreover, gratitude fosters resilience in the face of societal pressures. By recognizing and expressing gratitude for your experiences, you can increase your confidence and self-worth, which puts comparison at bay. It’s about fostering a mindset that appreciates the uniqueness of your own journey without being overshadowed by others’ seemingly perfect lives.
Specifically, with respect to motherhood, gratitude creates so much positivity, and often brings to light more joy and fulfillment. By exploring and embracing the power of gratitude, you can navigate the comparison trap with resilience, finding solace and contentment in the richness of their own experiences.
Here are practical ways to create a gratitude practice:
- Gratitude Journaling: Set aside a few minutes each day to jot down things you’re grateful for in your parenting journey.
- Morning or Bedtime Reflections: Start or end the day by mentally listing three things you’re thankful for regarding your children or parenting experiences.
- Family Gratitude Rituals: Introduce a gratitude circle during family meals or bedtime routines, where everyone shares something they’re thankful for that day.
- Gratitude Jar: Create a jar where family members can drop notes expressing gratitude for each other’s actions or moments.
- Visual Reminders: Place sticky notes or affirmations around the house to prompt moments of gratitude throughout the day.
- Gratitude Walks: During walks or outings with your children, encourage them to point out things they appreciate or find beautiful.
- Gratitude Letters: Write letters expressing gratitude to your children, highlighting specific qualities or actions you cherish.
- Mindful Moments: Pause during chaotic or stressful situations to find one thing you’re grateful for in that moment.
- Gratitude Art or Crafts: Engage in art activities with your children that emphasize gratitude, creating visual reminders.
- Gratitude Challenges: Set weekly challenges to find and acknowledge moments of gratitude, encouraging consistency in this practice.
A Final Note
While defaulting to the comparison trap is totally normal for all healthy human brains (so there’s nothing wrong with you!), it is 100% manageable with the right tools. Managing your mindset and practicing gratitude are both a great start to putting the comparison trap in the “back seat” so more love, joy, and connection can be in the driver’s seat.