We’ve all been talking a good bit lately about females supporting one another and lifting one another up. It all sounds really good. It all is really good. But there is one component to this conversation that I feel is being missed: Sometimes this can be really hard, too, especially when you don’t feel like you have much to be celebrating and eveyone else does.
Things have gotten a lot more competitive these days. Not too terribly long ago keeping up with the Joneses (er, Ms. Jones) was confined to a few choice arenas: job, sports, and garage size. And now? Competition (and some of it the unhealthy variety) has infused itself into every area of our daily lives, whether we like it or not. And while Ms. Jones used to be a seemingly more accomplished version of yourself, just with glossier hair and a glossier vehicle, over time the competition has become global, and she has morphed into a work-at-home mogul with a string of accolades and awards who also happens to be a fitness model with 486,000 Instagram followers and makes Pinterest-worthy organic treats for the class, has the perfect messy bun, and doesn’t yell at her kids.
No wonder we feel stressed. For an over-achiever like me, this onslaught of in-your-face competition can incite a new brand of anxiety. Despite the fact that it appears that everyone else is excelling in all areas all the time, this is not humanly possible and it is not reality. You know it’s not reality. I know it’s not reality. Heck, you don’t even want 486,000 Instagram followers (all the haters, you know), but we are all stepping on this toxic treadmill of unrequited dreams anyway. Sweating yet?
Let’s start with few of the places where competition can rear its ugly head:
1. Mompetition: Funny enough, the root of competition in this area has very little to do with actual parenting and even less to do with other moms. Mompetition often comes from a place of guilt: you are working, volunteering, or otherwise engaged in some non-parenting activity, thus you feel the need to overcompensate by proving to yourself that you care more about your kids than you do about the other said activity. This reconciliation could come in the form of Pinterest-inspired birthday parties, chaperoning more than your fair share of class field trips, or purchasing copius amounts of slime-making materials or Emoji-inspired bath bombs from Claires.
2. Glampetition: Do you remember when a swipe of mascara was all you needed to enhance your lashes? False eyelashes and lash-boosting systems were something for movie stars and Halloween parties. Now, there are hundreds of different types of lashes you can purchase from the drug store, beauty supply store or dermatologist’s office. It’s become commonplace to have hurricane-force fronds wafting from your eyes in the carpool line. Effortless-looking gorgeousness is not only accessible these days, it’s expected. And since I’ve hit the big 4-0 it’s an uphill battle with a downhill pull and a 14-step skin care regimen.
3. Instagrampetition: I’ve heard of more and more people giving up Facebook and Instagram because scrolling through their newsfeed makes them feel bad. Everyone is on vacation. Everyone is with their squad. Everyone is standing in front of a brick wall and looks really good doing so. There is not one thing wrong with these posts. We all post pictures of vacation and nights out with our squad (even if that squad consists of a couple of pint-sized people with a propensity for whining) and the brick wall will always be the backdrop of choice, if you have something you wish to showcase against a backdrop. But why does it make us feel so bad to see other people having so much fun and looking so fabulous? I’m guessing it’s because you are seeing it all at once, creating the illusion that you are the only one who is not fabulous.
5. Idea-and-Awardpetition: The idea mill of life is moving at warp speed, and it can be harder and harder to stake your claim. Every good idea you have seems to have been thought of already. The market (whatever your market happens to be) appears to be saturated, and thanks to the power of social media, the internet, and forty different industry e-newsletters that appear in your inbox daily, all of those ideas are in your face all day long and you might wonder if you will ever reach your dream. It’s maddening. You might have to dig deep to rejoice with a friend or colleague who is celebrating the career equivalent of a Super Bowl win when you feel like you can’t even find your shoes to make it to try outs for the B team.
And the list goes on. Sure, we can continue to click “like” on friends’ posts and stuff away the the emotions that make us feel low and unworthy on the inside. And sure we can give hugs and high fives and encouragment all day long and truly mean it, but how do we train our hearts to feel true joy for our sisters in their success while continuing to forge our own path? I think it has something to do with our inner confidence which is rooted in our faith rather than a bunch of likes, positive feedback, or even those awards and accolades that you may or may not have. I think it has to do with knowing that what you do every single day matters, and that your path will be revealed in its own time. There’s room for us all out there, with each of us making our mark in our own way. You keep on doing you and remember that none of us has it completely together, even Ms. Jones. And you might even be surprised to learn that to someone else, Ms. Jones is actually you.
Kelly Barbrey spends her time getting out-mommed, out-worked, and most definitely out-glammed. She hangs on to the small victories, such as (barely) meeting deadlines and having someone say every once in a while, “Yay! I was hoping to have grilled cheese for dinner again.”