Focus On What You Already Do Well

posted by Andrea | 08/3/2018

Something I’ve been thinking quite a bit about over the past few months is how we (essentially all humans) naturally tend to focus on all the things others do better than us, instead of feeling satisfied with what we already do well.

No matter how successful we are, there is always someone more successful.

No matter how wealthy we are, there is always someone with more money and possessions.

No matter how talented we are, there is always someone more talented.

No matter how thin or fit or muscular we are, there is always someone more thin, fit, and muscular.

No matter how many charities we support or organizations we volunteer for, there is always someone who does more.

No matter how clean and organized our homes are, there is always someone with a neater, more organized home.

No matter how well-behaved our children are or how loving our spouses are, there are always other families who seem to have things even more “together” than we do.

Even for people who don’t necessarily want what others have, it’s almost impossible NOT to at least notice when others seemingly have more, better, or different of something than we do. And when we notice, it’s very easy to feel just a little bit envious (we want what they have) or guilty (we should be doing what they do.)

However, we rarely have access to the “big picture” when it comes to the lives of other people (even close friends and relatives).

We see the things they excel at, their new promotions at work, their children behaving so marvelously, their perfectly clean kitchen, and their never-ending supply of time and energy for every volunteer opportunity that comes their way. BUT we might not see how stressful their job is, how little time they have for themselves, how grumpy their spouse is at home, or how they wish they could say “no” but just can’t.

We tend to glaze over any negative situations and focus on everything they do or have that is “better” or “more” than we do or have.

These thoughts cause us to feel like we aren’t doing enough… and the “I’m not doing enough” thought process is often one of the biggest hindrances to the quest for a simpler more organized life. 

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As I’ve mentioned before, I would consider myself a fairly confident person — I always have been. I am not easily swayed by the opinions of others, nor do I care all that much what others think of me. I have thick skin, I make decisions easily, and I rarely feel insecure about myself or the decisions I make.

Even still, there have been several times, just in the past few months, when I catch myself thinking “I should do more…” or “I really need to do that too…” or “If they can do it, I should too…”

Let me give you a few real-life examples:

Composting:

Dave and I have talked about setting up a composting station somewhere in our yard for YEARS. Every spring the topic gets brought up again… and every fall we say, “maybe next year”.

While we do have yard waste service to handle all the plant material we get rid of each week, we don’t have anywhere to go with ALLLLLLL our peelings, egg shells, coffee grounds, pits, husks, rinds, etc. etc. Honestly, we throw out a TON of compostable items every day… and it’s all going into a landfill.

A couple weeks ago we were talking with friends who recently built a nice composting area in their backyard. They did it solely to cut back on the amount of trash they throw out — and the whole process was so simple.

I sighed and said, “we definitely need to set up a composting area”… to which the friend responded, “don’t worry, we didn’t get ours set up until our last baby was out of diapers.” 

It seemed like a silly response to me in the moment, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that what she meant was, “you have a lot going on right now with all your little kids, just give yourself a couple more years and you’ll have more time and energy to devote to extra projects like composting”. 

I know it wouldn’t be a huge project to build a composting area somewhere in our yard… and it wouldn’t be that much extra work to put my food scraps in a bin on the counter instead of into the trash, but it’s just ONE MORE THING on top of several other things we want to (or need to) accomplish first.

We have a vegetable garden (our friends don’t). We have a huge amount of yard work we do each week (they don’t). We have house projects to tackle (they don’t). We have a baby and younger children who require more attention (they don’t).

These differences certainly don’t prevent us from being able to start composting (I’m honestly not making excuses). They simply show that we don’t see the full picture. We just see that our friends have a composting bin and we don’t — and we assume we SHOULD have one too, even if we don’t have the time or energy to add one more thing.

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Family Vacations:

We have SOOOOOOO many friends and family members who go on numerous summer vacations — many of them taking multiple young children (and babies) along for the ride!

They seem to have so much fun, they enjoy getting out and about, and they love giving their children so many new experiences. Every time I see their fun pictures on Facebook or hear them retelling stories of what they do on their trips, I silently feel a twinge of guilt as we almost never take our kids anywhere!

However, most of these friends and relatives who do all the traveling also work “regular” jobs during the rest of the year. So while Dave and I might not travel with our kids right now, we are both home with our children ALL day, EVERY day in the summer; and we do lots of fun things at home and in our local community throughout the year.

While I think there is something to be said for fun family traveling experiences (we do hope to travel more once the kids are a bit older) I also feel like there must be benefits for our children due to the fact that they get so much time and attention from both their parents on a very regular basis.

It’s easy for me to say “we should travel more”, “we should do more extra things”, “we should give our children more experiences” but for now, I just need to sit back and realize that our time will come.

Eventually we’ll be diaper-free, crib-free, stroller-free, and we can get out and about more at that time!

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Physical Fitness:

I recently had my yearly physical and had to fill out a bunch of paperwork. My doctor laughed when she saw that I checked the box “never” next to how often I exercised. She said the majority of people will just lie and say “sometimes” instead of “never”… but I really never exercise.

I’m not necessarily proud of this, nor do I think it’s the best choice for every person, but right now, I don’t care to make time for formal exercise on any sort of regular basis.

However, I still struggle with the thoughts of “I should exercise more” every time I drive past someone running down the street, any time friends or relatives talk about their latest form of exercise, or any time Dave wakes up early to go for a run.

I certainly COULD do more… and I honestly SHOULD try to do more… but I don’t. At least not right now.

On the flip side, I eat more nutritiously now than I ever have before, I consciously try to move a lot, I get good rest every day, I drink tons of water, and I have adopted so many healthier habits over the years… just not exercise!

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I could go on and on with different examples: 

  • kids who are much more involved in extra curricular activities
  • peers who volunteer more than we do
  • family members with the perfect house, lawn, car, wardrobe, etc.
  • other moms who always seem to dress so cute and fashionable
  • neighbors who are always out and about, doing fun things with their family
  • coworkers who seemingly have the perfect family and home life
  • other people’s children who eat super healthy foods and brush their teeth without a struggle!
  • babies who are super scheduled and sleep through the night almost immediately
  • other bloggers who are ‘everywhere’ and who do ‘everything’
  • friends who go on fun date nights or girls’ nights every week
  • acquaintances who always seem so put together

However, what I need to continually remind myself of are all the things I currently do really well: 

  • I keep 4 children fed, dressed, bathed, and alive every day
  • I run a business from home (and actually enjoy it!)
  • I maintain thousands of flowers, trees, shrubs, and other plants/veggies in our garden
  • I keep our house relatively neat and clutter-free on a daily basis
  • I arrive most places on time (even with 4 kids along for the ride)
  • I prepare 3 full meals every day, and we all eat together at the table
  • I am on 2 different committees at church, I direct the children’s choir, and Dave and I will be the Sunday School leaders starting this fall
  • I bring meals to people and invite guests into our home for meals on a regular basis
  • I read to my kids every day
  • I come up with crafts for them to do on a very regular basis
  • I wake up early so I can start my day off on the right foot — complete with a hot breakfast for the entire family
  • I keep up with my digital photo books every month
  • I make time for things that are enjoyable to me and say “no” when I feel I have too much on my plate

Unfortunately, I know that my list above will naturally cause some of you to think, “she does it… I should too”, but I’d caution you to take a step back and list out all of the things you currently do really well.

I’m certain that for every item I list under things I SHOULD do, I can list something else under the things I ALREADY do — I have a feeling you could say the same.

It’s very easy to focus on the specific things others do better than us or have more of than us… even though there are most likely plenty of things we do better and have more of compared to other people in our lives.

Stop comparing, and just start acknowledging and enjoying the things you already do well — you’ll be a lot happier!

I’d love to know, what do you currently do really well?

I promise, I won’t think you’re bragging! 

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33 comments

  1. Anonymous

    08/06/2018

    I am a frequent reader and post some but for obvious reasons I am posting anonymously today, if permissible. I am good at managing money and being an encouraging friend. I like to help my friends who are struggling financially. This has rubbed off on my son. He likes to help people too. He bought groceries for two of his friends who are brothers and moved out from their parents to their own house. I found the receipt in the trash and it was about $100 and he makes a very low income right now. I am proud of his generous heart!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks so much! What a lovely story about your son. You should be proud!

    [Reply]

  2. Jennifer

    08/04/2018

    So I don’t work outside the home (except I do play the piano on Sundays at church and receive a very tiny payment each week for this…) but I do exercise, have four kids, homeschool, and make meals! My mom often picks up groceries at Costco for me or my husband grocery shops, but I do like to bring my four kids along a lot of places. I like to take them swimming at the Y or local pool, I like to compost, and I really love to homeschool them and take them on field trips. My oldest is in fourth grade and my youngest is 20 months. I love your blog.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing Jennifer!!

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  3. Brooke

    08/03/2018

    I’m good at:
    -Pouring love into my ADHD son who requires a TON of attention in the evening.
    -Keeping track of all the family stuff – like physical stuff. My husband always remarks that I always magically have what is needed when its needed.
    -Making time for friends and self care

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    such a good list Brooke!

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  4. Bridget

    08/03/2018

    I really admire your confidence and see it clearly in your blog posts and life. This was a good message for me today. All of my kids are going to be in school this year and I’m figuring out what I can do part time that will benefit my family financially and the sad thing is that I’m SCARED to do anything. My confidence is so low and after 14+ years of being home, I’m struggling to believe that I can do anything outside of my home.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    oh wow — a brand new “season” of life for you!
    Just think how many organizational skilled you honed while you were home with kids all those year — I’m certain there are many businesses and organization in need of that!! You’ll find something — even if it’s not right away. Maybe take a semester just to chill at home and catch up on life. I know someone who did that after her last child went to school full time. She said it was the best 4 months of her life!

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  5. Janene

    08/03/2018

    This post was just what I needed to hear today! Thank you!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    you’re welcome

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  6. Anonymous

    08/03/2018

    Love this post! Thank you!
    It’s hard to say things I do well & not feel self-centered & “braggy”. But we all have our “special talents”!
    •Homemaking
    (food, laundry, cleaning, etc)
    •Gardening. •Lawn care & landscaping
    •Office secretary for our own business
    •Sewing •Baking •Papercrafting
    •Organization

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    not braggy at all! Good list 🙂

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  7. JJ

    08/03/2018

    You are doing an amazing job, Andrea!!! Love your outlook!!! I have been trying to really be attentive to my kids. I’m very task-oriented, so this is a challenge for me. When they come to tell me something(and are very looooong-winded), it is so hard for me to focus on two things. I have seen it takes less time if I stop what I’m doing and get on their eye level and listen. Then they go on their way happy that I actually listened. If I need to keep focusing on something. I tell them I need to be attentive to such and such and will get them as soon as I’m done so I can be attentive to them. That has helped SOOOO much!!! I’m still working on this. So it’s a work in progress!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes, this is something I’m working on (but not great at yet). One time, Simon grabbed my face and said “look at me mom!” and I thought, “OK, I just need to stop and listen!” He’s such a sweet boy!

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    JJ Reply:

    That is precious!

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  8. Bonnie'sMama

    08/03/2018

    I am good at supporting my husband’s dreams while plodding towards my goals, despite a less regular life than I idealize. I am an introvert who likes to stay home. My dad had a good job with a steady income, and money was not an issue for most of my growing up years.

    Then I married a dreamy, heavenly-minded musician who barely knew living requires money. We’ve had 11 years of irregular income doing odd jobs and freelance and short-term music teaching gigs, with lots of functional (not fun) travel to do those gigs. I’m not keen on fun travel, much less functional travel. I’ve fussed and whined and hated it, but I’ve also learned how to make it work, especially with children, and figured out ways to be reasonably organized and to make good memories and a home away from home wherever we are.

    In my culture, moms generally don’t have jobs. But I’ve found ways to use my skills and resources to contribute financially to our family, even while traveling, with disrupted schedules and extra demands like getting the children to his choir concerts and working with schedules at various institutions. I’ve found ways to pursue my financial and business goals, even if it meant sitting outside a camper at 1 a.m., trying to catch some internet so I can work after a long day of kid duty.

    So that’s what I’m good at–working with the resources and life I’ve got, through lots of change and upheaval. And the really sweet thing is–after all these years, piece by piece, we are putting together a life we both want, which includes buying a house (yay!) and staying home more and my husband working full time from home! And I’ve already started plodding towards a yard that looks more like Andrea’s and less like the boring blank slate we started with a month ago.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    This comment made me smile when I read it earlier today — SUCH an awesome perspective!
    I know you’ve commented before about how much of a struggle it has been for you, so I’m thrilled you finally have your house (and that you’re getting the garden whipped into shape!) Good for you!!

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    Bonnie'sMama Reply:

    Aw, thanks, Andrea. Well, the garden isn’t quite whipped into shape. I’m due in two weeks and I’m short, with a giant baby bump that is all straight out the front. Gardening around the baby is a serious challenge. I figure the neighbors must be wincing. BUT I’m still plodding forward, and thanks to my sweet husband, we now have some basic flowerbeds around our big porch (we own a porch!) into which we transplanted my plants from the place we rented. It feels so good to have plants again, on OUR land this time. Watching the transformation of y’all’s place over the course of years has inspired me so much, and makes me more okay with the landscaping process taking a while.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes, you get a pass this summer for being pregnant — when your kiddos are a little older, you’ll have more time and energy to spend working on the yard!
    And yes, our landscaping has been a work in progress for 5 years now (2 of those years had MAJOR yard projects) so it takes time, that’s for sure!

    [Reply]

  9. Sherri

    08/03/2018

    This one item right here is what I need to remind myself of almost daily:
    – Help care for elderly parents, one of whom is living with dementia

    This takes more time, energy and emotional strength than I ever realized…but it is SO important and healthy for them. And it has shown my family that even in the hard things, there is joy; that even on your worst day, you are valued and treasured.

    Thankfully my family fully supports this thing I “do” while not complaining about those things I “don’t”. Keep doing what you do 🙂

    [Reply]

    JJ Reply:

    As a granddaughter of someone who had dementia, I can tell you that you are impacting generations of your family! We lived with my grandma growing up. My dad took care of my grandma as she battled dementia. The character he built during that season of his life empowered the rest of us to “do hard” during our tough seasons. And ironically years ago, I had asked my grandma what helped her through her hard times. She said, “My faith. You have to play the cards you’re dealt.” And that’s how she lived. She inspired her kids to live the same way. Sherri, what an honor to your parents to care for them–priceless!!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing this!

    [Reply]

    Sherri Reply:

    Thanks so much for your encouraging words!!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    YES! This takes a HUGE amount of time, effort, energy, patience, strength, etc. Good for you!

    [Reply]

  10. pw

    08/03/2018

    Years ago b4 internet it was easier to do your own thing and not be compared because you could only compare yourself to friends and family, neighbors etc who all lived pretty much the same.Now it is so easy to see blogs, websites, get blasted with what everyone else does and then you gasp “I should do that”. my fellow workers come in with the newest sandals, clothes, were they have been, their next vacation. I wear shirts that still have back tags-when they stick out they lecture me. One thing I struggle with based on your blog is we both leave for work at 6:30 am don’t get home until 7 pm often bring work with us, I cook meals for 2 nights at a time, pack 2 days of lunches at a time, all home made food no frozen or take home no eat out no order in, and at 10 pm I think “how does Andrea get all that done in a day” and start the comparison. I just can’t do all u get done with 4 kids and it really annoys me even though I have gotten good at your “good enough” lecture. Yes I do compare myself to u and it has helped me in good ways sometimes. I do work full time, cook all home made meals from scratch, work out at least an hr a day, pay all the bills, keep house clean and picked up, laundry, grocery shop, etc. I have told my husband working is a full time job, managing a house is a full time job. Keep reminding myself. I hate shopping of any kind so have given myself permission to net shop. A win!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I think you’re right — the internet is amazing, but it does offer an easy opportunity to see what others have and want more of what don’t have.
    Also, PLEASE remember that Dave and I are BOTH home all day, every day for the entire summer. I can’t even imagine being gone for more than 12 hours every day — I’m amazing you still have any time (or energy) left over to make food or do the laundry. Yes, you are definitley doing 2 full-time jobs!

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  11. Leslie

    08/03/2018

    Amen! I too often allow looking at other folks to distract me from the blessings God has given ME! Your garden is AMAZING! I’m not coveting – but it does inspire me. Your children and husband are blessed beyond measure by the home you are making for them. When my children were in school and I had to fill out those endless forms at the beginning of each school year I always took joy in writing “Homemaker” in the box asking for my occupation. It is an honorable and very neglected occupation these days, I think. Thank you for this blog today.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Leslie — I’ll be sharing more about our garden in a post next week!
    And yes, I do REALLY enjoy being home. If you asked me this when I was in college, I would have laughed in your face, but I’m SO happy to be at home all day, every day!

    [Reply]

  12. Meghan

    08/03/2018

    Andrea, what an important post and great reminder! I am a very content person, but my mind easily goes to comparisons if I’m not on guard against it. Things I do well:
    Meal planning
    Choosing good recipes based on the ingredients and recipe reviews
    Making vacation plans
    Packing for myself and 3 kids for travel
    I take my kids lots places on my own and we do tons of fun stuff when my husband is working
    “Holding down the fort” when my husband travels for work.
    Online shopping – I get great deals
    Dressing myself – I pretty much always have the right outfit for then ocassion
    Loving all of my students even though some are more difficult to love than others
    My landscaping
    My house is fairly neat and clutter free
    Freezer cooking
    Letting my kids do stuff that’s a little dangerous but good for their development – snow skiing, tree climbing, water skiing, flips off diving boards, etc.
    About five times while typing this list I wanted to list things I don’t do well! Why is that? Lol

    [Reply]

    Meghan Reply:

    As in “but, my floors are actually dirty but you can’t tell” or “I’m pretty bad at keeping up with laundry”

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Yes yes… it’s so easy to say “but I don’t do _______ well” to compensate for saying anything positive about yourself!
    My first thought after reading your comments was “I should let my kids do more dangerous things” — AHHH!! It’s just natural instinct to want to be better at things we aren’t currently as skilled in or as good at!

    [Reply]

    Meghan Reply:

    I know! You wrote the other day about James playing outside by himself, and I have a really hard time letting my three-year-old out of my (or her borthers’) sight. But I should!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    well, we have a HUGE yard that is mostly fenced in and our house is far off the road, so we’re pretty relaxed about letting our kids play outside on their own. If we lived closer to the road or didn’t have a fenced in yard, we probably wouldn’t be as daring! Also, we probably would not have let Nora play outside by herself at 3 years old — different rules for different kids with different personalities!

    [Reply]