An orange and a lemon. Both fruit. So they should be the same, right? Wrong.
The orange is sweeter and rounder. The lemon is tart and has pointy ends. So why would we judge and condemn these for their differences and expect them to be the same?
When they’re on the receiving end of that for a long period of time, one tries to become like the other and then neither one is as they were created to be.
When we continue to do this with our friends, our children, our siblings, we miss out, not only on the gift that they’re here to bring but the opportunity to celebrate their differences and experience any kind of meaningful relationship.
Comparison is the thief of all joy. What if we just appreciated them for who they are instead of expecting one to be better than the other? This is no different than how we need to treat our fellow human beings.
I know you want the best for your teenager.
Picking apart every single detail to find where improvement is needed, even if you were specifically asked to do so, doesn’t help. You point out what others are achieving, hoping she’ll work harder and want that too.
Unfortunately, even the subtle comments of comparison have the opposite effect and only deplete her already precarious self-esteem. She’s scrutinizing herself inside and out, comparing every detail to her friends, family, celebrity crushes, and even her enemies. Most days, she thinks she comes up short of ‘good enough’.
Comparison is as toxic as criticism; it just sounds nicer. ‘Passive-aggressive nicer’, yet it invites the same experience of shame – her accomplishments are falling short AND she’s inherently flawed as a human.
Comparison is all about conformity and competition.
What worse? Your teen learns to resent and hate the people she’s compared to, even if they’re close family or her friends. This creates alienation from those she needs and wants the closest for encouragement and friendship.
What if your teenager was doing the best she could?
Her best may not be THE BEST or YOUR BEST. She isn’t your ‘mini-me’ and she’s not here to make you a successful parent. She’s here to become more of herself, whatever that is. Your compassion and encouragement support her to define her own version of success that amplifies her gifts and talents.
Here’s a list of things you can do to cultivate more compassion for yourself and as a parent.
- Be kind to yourself. Say 3 kind things to yourself every day: a compliment, acknowledging completing tasks or pointing out a quality/talent you like about yourself.
- Notice perfectionist tendencies. Rather than beat yourself up about not being or doing some perfectly, take a breath, and acknowledge your effort for being perfect enough.
- Honour your fear. Perfectionist tendencies often come from a fear of ‘getting it wrong’.
- Say something kind to someone else. By focusing on positive qualities or actions, you see more realistic humanity and less imperfection.
- Celebrate mistakes. Celebrating your humanity (and that of your teen), opens the door for the greatest learning. Perfect people don’t make mistakes and never grow or learn.
These are daily practices you’ll get better at over time without ever needing to be perfect. You’re not alone in this. Click here to get my best tools and tips on a weekly basis so you don’t miss an opportunity to improve your relationship with your teen.