Shall I Compare Thee to…?

my mother--1981
my mother--1981

The past is ever present and waiting in the future. At least, have you ever felt that way? Someone from the past sent me this picture of my mother. I hadn’t seen it before.

It is hard not to compare myself to her. She was prettier, smarter, sharper, more interesting, more precise, and more talented. Who do you compare yourself to? Does comparison motivate you to try harder or trip you up with doubt?

7 thoughts on “Shall I Compare Thee to…?

  1. Geez, who DON’T I compare myself with? I’m not tall/thin/handsome/smart/talented/successful/tactful/eloquent/suave/baritone/brave/insert-whatever-here enough, depending on who’s in front of me. And of course it only generates self-doubt and loathing.

    This is a sensitive one for me. Interesting topic to consider. It all breaks down when I think about “why?”, but not often enough. It’s a struggle I’ve always had, and probably always will.

    I wonder from time to time where it started, HOW it started, WHEN it started … and then I remember with whom I grew up. Mystery solved.

    1. Yes, i know how you feel. I compare myself to everyone–but since I love my mother, the comparison is harder to deal with. Hey, you can always insult everyone else! Well, I wouldn’t. Not really. But your parents, you know,…more baggage.

  2. When I was little, I used to compare myself to my much older sister. I used to say she got the brains, beauty, and body, but I got the boobs.

    Then one day I realized she wasn’t as smart as I thought she was, because I knew a lot of things she didn’t. And it came to me that I was wrong to compare myself to her.

    So I’ll say that to you – don’t compare yourself to your mother. She was her own unique self, and so are you. She had strengths and weaknesses, and so do you, and they are not the same. You will not walk the same life path as her, have the same thoughts and dreams as she did, make the same choices she made – because you are uniquely yourself. And she would want that for you. When you were little and she held you in her arms, I bet she didn’t see you as mini-her, but as her beautiful baby girl. And I bet her dream for you was that you would never make the same mistakes she did, and that your dreams would let you fly like she always believed you could.

  3. My sentiment echoes Falcon’s. Couldn’t have said it better, so I won’t try.

    But yeah, the past does haunt me. Stopped trying to forget, didn’t work, so now I’m trying to integrate.

  4. This cuts sorta close to the bone, in ways that I don’t think I could describe. (I know because I just tried, and then deleted the attempt. :))

    But I will say that my envy gland has never functioned particularly well. I don’t say “I’m jealous of X” much to myself, and if say it to X (or to anyone else, for that matter) it’s more like paying a compliment to X than like saying I’m annoyed not to have whatever-it-is myself (even if that does annoy me).

    When I read your writing, online or off, I’m constantly thinking, Now, damn — why can’t I do that? (Whatever the “that” of the moment is.) But the same response, about those things or others, also hits me when I read certain other people’s work. It turns out to be either a call to action (I have got to get better at that!), or something — for reasons of genre, or temperament, or skill, or whatever — that it’s not worth losing sleep over. Talented people simply blow my mind; I don’t have it in me to envy or resent their talents.

    In a recent brief exchange on Twitter, I said something about the total amount of destiny in the universe being a constant — that I can’t have more of it myself without taking it away from somebody else. (Or, for that matter, more of it in me in one respect than in another.) That was sort of a jokey throwaway line, but I’ve been thinking about it since I said it and am not so sure it should be thrown away. It seems to work not just for destiny, but for talent, and beauty, and kindness, and all the rest of the virtues — as well as the laws of preservation of [fill in the blank — energy, etc.] I stole from physics to formulate it in the first place.

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