The Comparison Trap: Self Anhilation Of The Psyche

A commercial sparked something in me. A dad talking about all the things he wanted to teach his kids. And I thought, well, I suppose I should teach my kid to bake and cook at some point…and I got images of boxed cake mix and brownie mix…accompanied by that stupid little voice pointing out, “Your mom and sister make their stuff from scratch most of the time, you’re not teaching your kid anything with box mixes.”

And so the comparison trap continues.

I suppose it’s an inevitable thing we do, as humans, compare ourselves to others. Maybe to gain perspective, maybe to motivate ourselves to do better, to strive for more. More often, I think it’s a form of self anhilation of the psyche. Knowing we can only be who we are and some of us are wired differently so we’re never going to be like so and so. It’s so easy to decide on that basis that you’re simply unworthy to live, or you’re a waste of space. Subpar, subhuman, lesser.

One of the first things you learn in therapy is that it’s unhealthy to make such comparisons. They encourage you to just be the better version of yourself without regard to who is superman or superwoman in whatever way. You can only be you, and you can strive to be a better version of you, but you can’t be someone else no matter how much you may desire it.

Thing is, outside of therapy, life doesn’t work this way.

People are constantly comparing you to others. In my case, my dad is constantly pitting me against my sister. She works, she’s a superb housekeeper, an excellent cook and baker, she’s pretty, she’s friendly. Then against their neighbor, who works full time and has a 4 year old son she is raising alone (except she has a bf who helps out a lot) so I am somehow less than both of them in his eyes.

In my own eyes when my mental state permits…I don’t view myself as competing with others thus needing the comparison. I am doing my own thing. I am focused on being a good mom, trying to teach my kid to be a decent human being and value more than just things with price tags. And in my case, I am doing it all alone. With the constant put downs and no positive reinforcement and battling my mental imbalances and financial struggles. It’s hard, it’s thankless, and occasionally, hell to the yeah, I’d like to hear, “You’re doing a good job.”

From my family, that simply does not happen on either side. Unless I snap and point out their negativity and lack of support then they might grudgingly say, “Yeah, you must be doing something right, Spook adores her mom.” THEN come the put downs about not working, or my anxiety and depression maybe harming my kid, or her not having every luxury is somehow neglectful.Oh, my and dad’s favorite rant, people on disability, because in his world, there’s no such thing, just laziness.

Last night he and stepmonster treated my 8 year old to a lecture about their harsh fathers and upbringing in which they were put to work driving trucks or working in fields detassling corn as soon as school let out from the time they were her age or younger. And yeah, they’re not being dramatic, that was their childhood in the boondocks being raised by men who weren’t their bioligical fathers so they were treated very harshly. (In my dad’s case, it was rural country in the ’50’s, long before it was considered a crime to beat your kids or work them at such a young age, but she’s 3 years younger than me, you gotta wonder where the child protective services were for her back then, it was the fucking 80’s…And yeah, my dad is 71, she’s 42, ewww, but whatever works for them.)

It just hit me that while I definitely want my kid to do some chores and learn not to be an entitled snowflake…them shoving that old world rural bullshit down her throat, like it was ever sane or normal to make 7 year old drive a truck or work in a field, pisses me off. Their abusive childhoods have no role in my kid’s life. I’m sorry they went through that, but terrifying a little kid isn’t what I call stellar grandparenting.

But that brought about more comparisons and dad basically making it like I had this charmed upbringing simply because I wasn’t working the fields when I was in single digits. I had a job at 16, I moved out on my own at 17, and I have fought tooth and nail to be on my own. There was no snowflake entitlement here. That was my sister, who was never forced to work. She got a waterbed, she got guitars and snakes and full breed $300 dogs and igaunas even though she had a record for robbery and car theft before she was 18. And it’s not jealousy,it’s fact. I was out of there and doing my own thing and not living under comparisons so there was nothing to be jealous of. Just, if he wants to illuminate golden childhoods, it wasn’t mine. Not saying mine was awful, but it wasn’t all mommy buying my stuff every time I took some pills cos I was told no. (To my sister’s credit, she eventually got her shit together in a big way, even if she still lives with mom.)

I just fail to see how comparisons do anyone any good. They are harmful, at least for me. I guess I don’t have a very strong psyche on some matters. And yet, here I am, still doing my own thing, so while they may rob me of self esteem constantly, they sure don’t keep me from trying to keep up my battles.

So, counseling, yeah, the whole ‘be the best version of you, no comparisons’ is a good thing to follow.

At the same time, I wish all my counselors had schooled me on 35 years of the world at large forcing their comparisons on me to the point I can’t help but fall victim to doing so myself.

Everyone else is out there, happy to anhilate my psyche. I don’t need to help them.

Sound paranoid?

You just gotta meet my family to get it.

Life under constant criticism with nary a good word spoken about you leads to paranoia, wariness, mistrust, and a great sense of dislike towards those who do more harm than good. Especially when it’s family.

Unconditional love isn’t something I’ve ever known and probably isn’t something I’ll ever know how to give to anyone but my kid and cats.

Damaged though my psyche may be at their hands and my own…

I’m a fighter and I’m going to keep fighting.

If only to spite them all.

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