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Do Midlife Comparisons Make You Feel Like Roadkill?

Do you sometimes feel less-than, even though you know you’re not? So does Lisa Beach. Read more from Lisa on her blog.

Even though you know better, don’t you occasionally fall into the self-esteem-killing trap of comparing yourself to others? I know I do, especially since I just turned 50 – that midlife milestone when I should be nearing the peak of my life, but in reality, not so much.

Do Midlife Comparisons Make You Feel Like Roadkill?

Like roadkill, comparisons draw you in, forcing you to stare even though you know you won’t like what you see. You try to avert your eyes, yet you can’t not look at that dead squirrel squished in the left turn lane. Which is exactly how I felt at 50, when I looked around to see how everyone else was faring (No! Look away!) and felt like I was choking on their dust as they raced ahead of me. Damn, some days I can’t even see the finish line. Why did I look?

Short answer – I’m an idiot.

Most days, I’m happy with my life. My days overflow with good health, happy marriage, great kids, yada, yada, yada. But every now and then, those days of feeling “less than” creep up on me like a thong gone wrong.

So how do I compare to thee on those days when I feel like I am the roadkill? Let me count the ways.

  1. Career. Someone I knew from college worked as a DEA agent who helped bring down a Mexican drug cartel. (True story.) I taught my boys cursive writing. As worthwhile as that might be (or at least, used to be, prior to touchscreens & keyboarding), I feel underwhelmed by my professional accomplishments in the last decade or so. I know I can’t measure motherhood by the same standards, and I did willingly park my full-time writing career to be a stay-at-home mom and then homeschool my two boys for almost 10 years. But still. I yearn for a pat on the back once in a while, or at least an occasional “you didn’t suck today” to make me feel like I’m moving forward in life. I mean, I earned a master’s degree so I could go out in the world and do great things. And I did . . . at least for the first 10-15 years. I reveled in my career success filled with accolades, awards, steady paychecks, professional association memberships, and business trips padded with lovely per diems. But I’d like to think all those years I spent paying off Sallie Mae would yield bigger results than being dubbed the official cat-vomit-cleaner of the family (because apparently, I’m just that good). Wait, I did serve on the PTA board; does that count as a promotion?
  2. Finances. I know so many people who’ve got the beautifully decorated and landscaped 4,000-square-foot home, the luxury cars, the exotic vacations, the college funds for all four kids, and the fully funded I-can-retire-when-I’m-60 bank accounts, and I’m really hoping they’re all in debt up to their botoxed foreheads. Just kiddin’ (kinda). I really, really miss those dual-income days when I could pretty much buy and do most things I wanted (hello, highlights and massages). Right now, my house is sporting four active plumbing and roof leaks, weeds and bare patches dot my front lawn, and I cruise consignment stores to spruce up my wardrobe. We lead a perfectly normal, struggling middle class life (hello, BOGOs and coupons). We’re not poor, but we ain’t rich either, sandwiched somewhere between trailer park and Park Avenue.
  3. Travel: A friend of mine works as a flight attendant and jets off to Amsterdam, London and cool cities all over the U.S. Another friend just took her four kids backpacking across Europe for three weeks. I feel well-travelled when I score a trip to Trader Joe’s in the next county. Our shoestring travel budget keeps us pretty close to home for most vacations, although I still dream about the girls’ spa weekend, the family cruise and the writer’s retreat that I will someday go on. (Just waiting for the right Groupon deal to hit.) Fortunately, I live in the Sunshine State, so I’ve got plenty of sunny staycations to fill the void until then. And, my family will be trekking back to New Jersey next year to visit relatives and friends, so I’ve got that pot of gold just waiting for me at the end of the I-95 rainbow.
  4. Beauty & Fitness: I should really just avoid Facebook on the days when I’m looking and feeling less than stellar. I don’t want to read about a friend’s latest triathlon when I’m sore from weeding the garden yesterday. I don’t want to see photos of sun-tanned high school classmates in their bikinis when I’m praying my tankini top covers my lily-white, doughy belly and my matching boy shorts hides my ever-expanding hips and thighs. I don’t want to see a close-up selfie of my friend’s still-flawless complexion when I’m searching YouTube for a tutorial on masking under-eye bags. These FB posts make me feel like I’m standing next to Michelle Pfeiffer and wondering if I’m just as pretty. Um, no. Yes, I’m that shallow sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong. I feel very blessed in so many areas of my life most days. But those moments of doubt occasionally crop up when comparisons just pummel my positivity and leave me feeling “less than.”

Fortunately, a great glass of red zin helps me get over it. What makes you feel less than?

Lisa Beach

Lisa Beach is a recovering stay-at-home mom and homeschooler who lived to write about it. Her blog, Tweenior Moments, humorously tackles middle age, friends, family and all the baggage that goes with it. She's been published on Club Mid, Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, Midlife Boulevard, and Ten to Twenty Parenting.

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Sunday 18th of October 2015

I know EXACTLY what you're talking about! Sometimes I get bummed because I thought I would be further ahead by now - especially when everyone else looks like they’ve got it all together. (Do they? Do they really?)

I think it's human nature to think that the grass is always greener in someone else's back yard . . . and to be ticked about it. But the truth is, you don’t know what bull**** they’re using as fertilizer.

Try writing down your accomplishments and affirmations so you can refer back to them quickly when the self-esteem demons try to undermine you.

Lisa Beach

Sunday 18th of October 2015

Thanks, Babs. Glad I'm not the only one who feels like this once in a while. I don't always get so down on myself. Usually, I'm a great self-cheerleader. But sometimes, you just have one of those days, ya know? I love your idea of writing down accomplishments and affirmations. (I'm a big list-maker!)


Wednesday 14th of October 2015

The trap of comparing ourselves to someone else is we end up devaluing our own gifts, talents and accomplishments.

Being a mom who is home-schooling is as worthy an achievement as the DEA officer.

To me the question is what are we really comparing?

It is easy to believe the grass is greener on the other side...what we don't know is the grass on the other side may not be green at all,

Lisa @ Tweenior Moments

Wednesday 14th of October 2015

I get it, Miriam. And most days, I really don't fall into the comparison trap. I'm blessed in so many ways and feel very proud of my accomplishments. Being a stay-at-home mom and a homeschooler were no easy tasks! But there are days when I'm feeling like I'm just not where I thought I'd be, you know? Those moments of self-doubt, however fleeting, make you question your choices about the past and your hope for the future. Fortunately, I wasn’t wallowing in self-pity for long. And those feelings were the impetus behind launching my Tweenior Moments blog and resuming my freelance writing career. Thanks for your thoughts about this!

Leisa Hammett

Wednesday 14th of October 2015

Funny and a bit sad. And, sorry, but I consider being a mother at home with your children as just as important as that DEA. Someone had to mother and parent and teach that person. I will not buy in to the lack of worth that culture wishes to deem on mothers who choose to be at home with their children. These are my thoughts and experiences and not meant to sound negative or be a negative comment to you on and about your post.

Knowing, too, I am blessed. I struggle at watching so many midlife women live the life you describe when, right now, I have lost yet another sitter for my 21/y/o daughter with autism. And, here I am, chucking yet another event that I would like to go to because of such. But, I'm working on pulling myself up from this funk because that's what I'm doing here, I'm effing myself with this woe-is self-talk. I'll get over it and get my tude right.

You're a good writer.


Lisa @ Tweenior Moments

Wednesday 14th of October 2015

Thanks for the insights, Leisa. I agree that being a stay-at-home mom is as important, if not more important, than any job on earth. And I know I’ve made a profoundly positive on my kids’ lives in making this choice. However, there are times (like my 50th birthday or when I’m meeting someone new and he or she asks, “So what do YOU do?”) that I feel like I just don’t measure up to where I thought I’d be in life, especially in my career.

But, like you, I realized that I’ll get nowhere fast with that attitude, which is one of the reasons I launched my humor blog, Tweenior Moments, and got back into freelance writing. Doing so, and learning a lot of new technology in the process, has absolutely resuscitated me.

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