The tricky trap

I’ve been trying to write this blog since I’ve come back to the U.K, but in true Keira fashion I’ve accidentally picked up a lot of work all at once and I’ve been too exhausted to put any of my thoughts to paper. Please bear with me through this post, I’m hoping my tired musings will resonate with at least some of you!

So as I wrote in my last post, I’ve just been back to NZ for 7 weeks. I didn’t realize until I got there that I was actually dreading catching up with people, because I felt I hadn’t “achieved” much since last time I was back.

Let me explain that a little. Last time we were in NZ was in 2016 for our wedding. Coming back to NZ I was faced with so many questions like, “so when are you starting a family?” or “have you guys bought a house yet” or “have you got a new job?”

Now while I was somewhat prepared for these questions, I hadn’t really put much thought into other things to talk about. When I was back in Gisborne with one of my all time favourite people Jessie McDonald, I came to the sudden realization that I didn’t value my life or my adventures from the past year because I hadn’t “achieved” the socially constructed ideas of what your first year of marriage should entail.

Jessie is one of my handful of friends who have started their journey of motherhood in this last year. When asking her what she’d been doing, she said her answer was somewhat boring as it was all to do with her precious bundle of joy, Beau. Of course I didn’t find it boring and I loved hearing about all aspects of her journey. Yet when it was my turn to answer what we’d been up to I replied, “not much. Same house. Same jobs. Same financial position” I explained to her that I was “disappointed” because I had nothing new to share, no big news, and I couldn’t even say we are saving for a house because we aren’t (yet) in that financial position.

The next day when I went back for some more Beau cuddles, Jessie asked me about my travels, about my church here, and about my goals for the coming year. She managed to snap me out of the place where I was feeling like a failure, and reminded me that I had so much to be thankful for.

This emotionally dangerous trap of comparison really managed to hold me down. I felt as if my life wasn’t worth even commenting on because I didn’t have a baby, or I hadn’t just bought a new house like many of my friends have. Yet as Jessie pointed out, unlike most of my friends back in NZ, I’d had the opportunity to travel to many different countries, and have my eyes opened to different cultures of the world. Not only that but I’d manage to hold a job down for a whole year without any lengthy hospital stays, broken bones, or major operations. These things in themselves are all big achievements for me!

Mark Twain said that “comparison is the death of joy,” and I really couldn’t think of a better way to put it. Because I was comparing myself to what was seemingly expected of me as a newly-wed, I’d forgotten about my joy. Sure, I’d enjoy traveling while I was there, but I’d soon forget about it when seeing the next person’s “bought a new house” update. Now that we have social media as a way of sharing all our positives, the “keeping up with the Joneses” has reached a whole new level. It’s a good reminder for me (and everyone reading this) that pictures are not always what they seem. Just like Jessie said, yes she’s superbly happy with being a mum, but the cute pictures of Beau online don’t show the sleep deprivation or any of the struggles you have with new motherhood!

So over the course of my trip back, I started to re think how I would tell the story of the last year. I started to ask people what their goals were for the year, and really thought about my goals, and my achievements.

To be honest, sometimes the biggest achievement of my week is that I’ve made it out of the house each day. With chronic pain it is sometimes easier just to curl up in a ball and try and hide from the world, so I am proud that I am trying to live life to the full. This year my goals are to try and stop comparing myself to others, and to better understand my worth in Gods eyes. I’d also love to get a job in Speech and Language therapy so I can finally start my masters next year (or the year after). And finally, I want to start to build up a mental health ministry – there will be more on this in future posts!

Of course I have lots of little goals too (like traveling to two new countries) but I now know, that even if I don’t “achieve” these things, I’m not a failure, that they will all come with time. And I’m certainly not “unworthy” if I don’t meet the expectations of our socially constructed world! Now that I’m out of the dangerous devalued zone of comparison I want to encourage any one who’s stuck in that position to look at what you do value in your life, and set goals/mini-goals to keep moving forwards! We are all so worthy, and other people (or other people’s ideas) should definitely not be a bench mark for our own value

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