Stop Comparing Your Tired to Other People’s

April 22, 2024

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I recently had this breakthrough that’s been very empowering and practically helpful, so I figured I’d share it here with you. 

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Full Transcript

 Episode 51. Stop Comparing Your Tired to Other People’s

[Upbeat Intro Music]

Kelly Nolan: Welcome to The Bright Method Podcast where we’ll discuss practical time management strategies designed for the professional working woman. I’m Kelly Nolan, a former patent litigator who now works with women to set up The Bright Method in their lives. The Bright Method is a realistic time management system that helps you manage it all, personally and professionally. Let’s get you falling asleep proud of what you got done today and calm about what’s on tap tomorrow. All right, let’s dig in!


Hey hey! All right, so today we’re gonna talk about a breakthrough that I had recently, and candidly, I recently shared about this on Instagram, and I normally don’t like to completely repeat something I did on Instagram or my email newsletter, but life is lifeing right now. And I have a kid at home. It looks like she’s gonna be sick the rest of the week, so this is something I’ve given thought to earlier in the week, and I figured I’d share it now in part because it got a lot of responses on Instagram. People feel like it resonated. People feel similarly to how I feel right now, and so, to the extent it’s useful to you, I wanted to share it here as well.

So just a heads up, this is gonna sound initially like a parenting discussion, and it’s not. So listen to it even if you don’t have kids. But I was talking to a friend on the phone recently about this topic, and it was like that was when I connected these dots.

Don’t Focus on Fairness – 1:20

So I think like a year ago, I had read an article that talked about how we should not focus on fairness with kids, which is really different than how I grew up. And I think that how I grew up, there was a lot of emphasis on being fair to each other, and I think there are some benefits to that. But I read this article that said, “Don’t focus on fairness because that has a child look outside themselves to decide what they need.” So if kid number two is getting shoes, kid number one might be like, “I need new shoes too,” versus understanding that they don’t. They have plenty of shoes for every occasion that they need. Or kid two is getting a big bowl of cereal, so kid number one is like, “I want a big bowl of cereal,” instead of just analyzing, “Am I hungry? Do I need food? Do I even want cereal right now?” And just trying to move away from focusing on what’s fair and more towards identifying what they individually internally need so that we’re focusing on that instead of externally, which leads to keeping up with others to kind of ensure that fairness.

So my mind was blown on that because I don’t knock how I grew up with the emphasis on fairness, but I can see the value of this different approach. And when I was talking to my friend, I realized that I have inadvertently been doing the looking outside of myself thing to myself in a way that I don’t like, that I don’t think is serving me very well. So let’s talk about that.

My Personal Experience with Comparison – 2:45

And what it is is over the past year I would say I’ve been feeling more tired than normal, a little more stressed out than normal. And it’s not on the time management front necessarily. On the time management front side of things, I feel like I’ve been doing what I talk about, feeling pretty good about that, but there are just some personal things going on in my life that are more tiring.

And, candidly, I solo parent a lot, and I think that no matter how you cut it, it’s just an exhausting thing to do. I really bow down to any parents who are truly solo parenting. I, from a financial standpoint, have a lot of flexibility with my husband’s job along with my own, but I am alone with the kids a lot, and that is exhausting.

But when I feel tired and I feel stressed, I look around and I see a lot of other people working harder than me. Objectively, when I look at a lot of my clients, a lot of my friends, my job is way more flexible and more stress-free than their jobs, and it’s also way less stressful and time consuming than my old job as an attorney. And so, as a result of that, I often dismiss my own feelings of tiredness or stress and be like, “Well, I’m not as stressed as I used to be,” or “I’m not as stressed as her,” or “She’s doing a lot more than me, so I can’t be stressed,” and I really shut down those thoughts of stress, and I just keep moving on. And it’s not probably very healthy, but that’s just how I’ve been doing it.

Recently, a couple weeks ago, a friend texted me something along the lines of, “I just had a solo weekend with my kids. I don’t know how you do this all the time.” And let’s be honest, it shouldn’t take an external source to tell me that. And I know that, but it didn’t sink in as a way to give myself permission to acknowledge, “Yeah, this is hard.” My job may be way less stressful than it used to be, but my personal life (between the solo parenting and a lot of personal issues that I don’t discuss publicly) is kind of hard right now. And it’s okay to feel tired and stressed out at times.

That realization combined with that whole teaching our kids to not focus on fairness but look internally to themselves kind of had these things trigger in my brain like little lightbulb moments.

First Lightbulb Moment: We Cannot Measure Our Stress in Comparison to Others – 5:05

The first is I cannot, nor should any of us measure our stress by comparing it to others, including past versions of you. I need to just listen to myself without judging whether it’s valid that I’m stressed based on what others are going through.

Now, just to caveat this, I am a big believer in perspective. I think it is very important to have perspective. I think that it’s important for me to understand there are a lot of other people out there with harder lives than me (locally, in this country, in this world, for sure), and I think it does help. There is a benefit to it in that it helps us appreciate what we do have and really understand just the perspective of it. But I also want to share a gem from you from my therapist who I’ve started to see, and she was saying, “You really contextualize and give perspective to everything that I feel. If it’s negative, I will give all the perspectives and caveats.” She was like, “You do that a lot.” And I was like, “I know, but I do believe that perspective is important.” And she goes, “It is. But what you do is you need to let yourself feel the feeling first and then introduce the perspective.”

What I had been doing was just using perspective to just tamp down completely any feeling that I’ve been having, and that’s not beneficial as well. And so, I just share that because that was just a lightbulb moment for me of, “Okay, I’m not completely ignoring everybody else out there in the context and perspective. But I still can allow myself the feeling and then bring in the perspective without just completely denying how I feel.

Second Lightbulb Moment: Things Other Than Our Jobs Can Stress Us Out – 6:42

The second part of this sounds really obvious, but I’m just gonna state it because sometimes we know things and we still don’t absorb it. Jobs are not the only determiners of stress. Other things can stress us out, and just like time is time is time is time is time, which is why I think that we can’t just focus on getting a handle on our personal life on the time-management front or our professional life, we really have to address both because they all draw on the same bank of time, that’s really why I focus on both in The Bright Method. We don’t just focus on work. We don’t just focus on personal. We focus on it all together. That same concept applies when it comes to stress.

I mean, it makes sense. Stress is related to our time and energy. It’s the same thing. Stress is stress is stress is stress is stress. Stress in one area, even if it’s different than it used to be, can still lead you to feel overall stressed. Again, I know that’s obvious, but just gotta share it explicitly because sometimes it helps it click. And so, whatever is causing you stress, even if it doesn’t look like textbook stress that we talk about a lot in our culture, what you used to experience is still stress. It’s still justified, it’s still legitimate, and it’s still something that we can address.

Third Lightbulb Moment: Not Giving Legitimacy to Your Stress Prevents You From Solving It – 7:52

Speaking of that, the third point, the third lightbulb moment I had is by preventing myself from even acknowledging and giving legitimacy to the stress that I felt and feel, I was preventing myself from doing anything about it. Whether I knew it for not, subconsciously it’s just there, tamped down, bubbling up, just bursting within me, but I’m just denying it. If I can’t even acknowledge it, I can’t even solve it.

And I talk about that a lot here — identifying the right problem so you can actually solve it. Where a lot of times in time management we blame ourselves, and so, we’re trying to fix ourselves, solve ourselves, instead of realizing if we just had a different system we’d probably get closer to where we want to go. It’s the same with this. I needed to acknowledge, “I am stressed out. I am really tired by certain things in my personal life right now, and so, now that I’ve addressed it, I can actually do things about it to help myself.”

So what I mean by that is I’m identifying where that kind of — I say stress a lot, but it’s a little bit more where exhaustion is coming from. I’m taking action to breathe more ease into those specific areas of my life, and I’m going to therapy, as I mentioned, which is huge. I don’t pretend that time management and all of that is any substitute for therapy. I’m a big fan of therapy.

For me, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve realized that solo parenting is a big source of the exhaustion, and I do it a lot (like I’m solo a lot). And I think this is exhausting for me because I’m someone who really likes my alone time and having little kids on my own most weekends and evenings and all of that is not conducive to me getting what I need.

So what I’m doing (and this is just me-specific, but I’m just giving examples of how I’m trying to solve for this) is that in addition to when my husband works full weekends and he’s gone all weekend, I typically get about four hours of childcare. And I hire someone, they come in, and I get to, whether it’s work because kids were sick and I didn’t get things done during the week or just working out, doing my own thing, going to a coffee shop, whatever I feel like doing for four hours every weekend when I have no other help, that’s what I do. That’s my time. It definitely makes me a better mom the rest of the time when I’m solo with them.

That was something I was already doing, but what I’m also trying to do is just take off more time working on Fridays when I can so that I am going into a weekend even if it’s not a solo weekend, but any weekend with kids is a lot, even if you have a partner there, just really starting to take some more time off on Fridays when they’re in school. When I’m, candidly, tired and I’m not doing my best work anyway, really trying to take advantage of those last childcare hours, a full day if I can (not always, but if I can I’m definitely going to), and take advantage of that. We have it as unstructured time. Do whatever I want to do, whether it’s some work, if it’s a class I’m signed up for that I really enjoy, if it’s just working out, if it’s going on a walk, if it’s having lunch with a friend, whatever it might be, giving myself space to do that.

Even now as I share it there is part of me that’s like, “Man, a lot of people listening to this are probably busier than me and they can’t do that, and should I be doing this? Is this justified?” And I’m just trying to really sit in the fact that I am tired, whether it’s justified or not, in some ways, and when I have done this before, it has been game changing for me. So I’m going to keep doing it. I am in a slower period of business right now. I’m not running any programs, so I can, and so, I’m going to. There’s no badge of honor for martyring myself unnecessarily when I could swing this during this season, and so, I’m going to do it. I’m going to own it, and I’m going to do it.

We Need to Look Internally – 11:35

So my point is, just like we teach kids to look internally and not externally to determine what they need, we need to do the same for ourselves. If you are stressed, annoyingly, it does not disappear just because your brain tells you it’s not rational to feel that way, then listen to that. Give legitimacy to whatever stress it is. You can always bring in perspective later, but really understand, “Am I stressed? Am I tired? Where is this coming from, and are there things I could do about this,” and not just dismissing that whole train of thought and discussion and creativity just because other people might have it harder than you.

And I’ll also bring in something that someone raised in the comments on Instagram is that we also don’t know what’s going on with people. And so, not only shouldn’t we go through this judgment of comparing our stress, tiredness, whatever it is, how hard our life is with other people, but we can’t.

I remember when I was struggling with time management, I looked around and I thought everybody else had it together and I was totally missing some sort of memo on how to do this adult thing and I was the only one who felt this way. And years later I found out a lot of other people felt that way, felt the way I had, feeling very overwhelmed, not knowing how to run my adult life from a time-management perspective. And it’s just such a sign to me of we never really know how other people are doing.

And so, you not only shouldn’t compare yourself to other people, but you can’t because other people who might look like they have it harder but they’re doing better than you and things like that, you just can never understand fully what’s going on in there, and so, it’s just not even worth it. So just focus on yourself. Do the best you can to alleviate your own tiredness, exhaustion, stress, whatever it might be, and you will be better for that no matter what is going on with other people.

All right? So I’m gonna wrap this up by saying listen to yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others, especially not in order to dismiss, diminish, or invalidate how you feel. It really prevents you from getting to the part where you creatively seek solutions so that you can get back to enjoying your life, recharging, and giving your body and brain what they need. So listen to yourself so you can help yourself.

I hope you enjoyed this shorter episode, and I’ll catch you in the next episode. Thanks for being here!

[Upbeat Outro Music]

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