A Reminder When The “Helpful” Things Start To Feel Too Loud

I’ve recently started a “series” of sorts over on Instagram that I’ve been calling Connection Questions. I created it in an effort to, well, connect with others on that platform — to use social media as a place to blast through some of that bright, shiny surface stuff and get more to who we ARE and what we think, believe, value, etc.

My latest Connection Question was around comparison, and I asked people if comparison was something they struggled with and, if so, what coping mechanisms they’d found to deal with it.

The question resulted in several great one-on-one conversations, and I wasn’t surprised to see that many of them were related to parenting. Turns out, it’s VERY easy to compare yourself to other mothers — especially when your Instagram feed is full of alllll things parenting: parenting styles, breastfeeding tips, kid-friendly recipes, crafts, stay-at-home moms, working moms, Montessori moms, kids’ birthday parties, and on and on and on.

The thing that’s tricky, too, is that so much of the parenting information we can access via social media is created with the intent of being incredibly helpful toward other moms — and so much of it IS helpful. We can troubleshoot sleep issues and find creative kids’ snack ideas and get tips on dealing with temper tantrums thanks to the things others post.

But what happens when the scale tips from “helpful” to “overwhelming”?

It’s a delicate balance, and it’s hard to know how to navigate it.

My mom talks about how, when my sister and I were babies back in the mid- to late 80s, she would get something in the mail once a month that would talk about where we were developmentally and help her know what to expect in the coming weeks. That, aside from baby books, our pediatrician, and friends with kids, was her main source of parenting advice, really.

And while on the one hand that sounds hard (Can you imagine being a mom without Google or Instagram??) it also sounds so FREEING (Can you imagine being a mom without Google or Instagram??).

Both have their pros and cons, of course, but I think one major negative of the landscape today is it can be hard to step away from all the “helpful” things and, instead, listen to your gut.

My friend Simi just sent out an email about trusting yourself, which includes considering your own wisdom before asking others for advice. That feels almost counter cultural these days, doesn’t it — to avoid first going to Instagram or Google or a friend when you have to make a decision? And yet fostering that trust and belief in ourself is how we combat the comparison we might feel when it comes to parenting.

Once we feel and know we are making the right choices for our family specifically and let go of the belief that we’re doing things “wrong” by doing them differently from others, we can be much more at home in our lives and delight in our children AND OURSELVES in a new way. And here’s a bonus: In looking inward for that wisdom and trust, we model that for our children, paving the way for them to also be more connected with their authentic selves — connected with the voice inside that can be drowned out by the many other voices surrounding us if we’re not careful.

It’s hard work, this whole trusting ourself thing, and it takes practice and patience and grace. But then, aren’t all things worth doing challenging in some way?

So let me wrap things up here:

-First, if you struggle with comparison when it comes to your parenting and the choices you make for your family, YOU ARE NOT EVEN A LITTLE ALONE.

-Second, alllll that “helpful stuff” out there is both genuinely helpful AND is also fueling that comparison, which is quite confusing and means it’s up to us to gauge when the information is crossing the line from helpful to harmful.

-And lastly — most importantly — learning to tap into your own inner voice and fully trust your authentic self is the antidote to that comparison, so it’s worth it to work on building up that instinct to ask OURSELVES first before we seek advice elsewhere, and then feel confident that our gut has led us in the right direction — even if that direction is different than hers or hers or hers.

My friend Brittany said something recently that I love as it relates to comparison. “Focus on being the star of your own movie.” You’re not the star of anyone’s movie — anyone’s life — except your own, so isn’t it worth it to lean hard into that authentic, true role? Let’s all go for the Oscar in our own lives, what do you say?

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