Stop comparing yourself to the past self

As parents, we encountered a lot of struggles when Baby T1.0 was born, both emotionally and mentally. In the first few days of his life, Baby T1.0 lost 14% of his birth weight. While it’s normal for babies to lose some weight after birth, it is necessary to take some action if the loss is over 10%. 

When Baby T1.0 was three days old, our midwives told us to go to BC Women’s hospital to get some blood work done (he was born at home) and to get some donor milk to help with his weight gain. When we returned home and were about to start making dinner, the midwives called.

I picked up the phone in the living room and was told that we had to go to the hospital for a jaundice treatment immediately. Baby T1.0’s bilirubin level was quite high and the midwives were very concerned, especially given the higher than usual weight loss. While on the phone, I looked at Mrs. T, who was sitting in the next room trying to feed Baby T1.0 with the donor milk through a tube stuck in the bottle and trying to breastfeed him at the same time. All I could see was Mrs. T was crying uncontrollably. She was scared. She was scared that our little tiny boy would not make it.

I was scared too, but I tried to be strong and supportive. This was completely new territory for me.

After sitting in the lobby at the hospital for over 30 minutes due to some confusion whether we were in the right place, we were finally admitted and Baby T1.0 was immediately put in an incubator with lights to help him break down bilirubin in his body. The nurses and doctor then put us on a strict three-hour feeding schedule to get his weight up. This meant feeding Baby T1.0 exactly at midnight, 3 AM, 6 AM, 9 AM, noon, 3 PM, 6 PM, 9 PM, then repeating the entire feeding cycle again. We were also encouraged to squeeze in one or two extra feeds in between if it was possible.

At first, we both thought the three-hour feeding schedule would be manageable but we were completely wrong. 

It was a lot harder than we had imagined.

Each feeding took about 1 to 1.5 hours because we had to feed Baby T1.0 from the breasts, as well as supplement with donor’s milk and expressed breast milk (and later we had to introduce formula to further help with the weight gain). After every feed, Mrs. T would then pump to get some expressed milk for the next feeding. 

Given we had to do a feeding every three hours, this meant we only got 1.5 hours of sleep at most in between each one. We did this crazy demanding three-hour feeding schedule for almost three months because Baby T1.0 was very slow in gaining weight. We didn’t know what else to do. We didn’t want to feed him too much donor/express milk and formula from the bottle as we were concerned about nipple confusion. We wanted him to feed from the breasts and get the best nutrients from his mother. Baby T1.0 would often wake up screaming. When that happened, more often than not, it wasn’t time to feed yet, so we would try to get him to fall back to sleep by holding him and bouncing him. 

We lived like zombies for three hours. 

Magically, I managed to go to work and manage some multi-million dollar projects without passing out from lack of sleep. 

Looking back now, Mrs. T and I realized that Baby T1.0 woke up screaming because he was hungry. He wanted food, but we didn’t know any better. We were over our heads with the feeding schedule and trying to keep our heads above water. We were simply trying to stick with the feeding schedule and nothing else. We didn’t even consider that our little baby could be hungry outside the feeding schedule. 

What we realize now is that we should have just put him to the breasts and fed him, rather than sticking to the insane crazy three-hour feeding schedule.

If we had done that, things would have been simpler. We would be able to get some sleep and also feel better as new parents. 

Due to this experience, we held a lot of guilt to our chests, especially Mrs. T. We felt that we didn’t have time to enjoy the precious moments with Baby T1.0. Mrs. T felt guilty that she was pushing Baby T1.0 away because it wasn’t feeding time yet. She felt that she wasn’t able to have a strong bond and connection with Baby T1.0 when he was a little baby. I felt guilty because I’d occasionally get mad at the little baby because he wouldn’t stop screaming. 

Things went a lot smoother with Baby T2.0. Having some experience already, we weren’t as worried with Baby T2.0. We fed Baby T2.0 whenever she was hungry, and we let her sleep whenever she needed it. Overall, we were a lot more relaxed when it came to taking care of Baby T2.0. We co-slept with Baby T2.0 most of the time and Baby T2.0 would often snuggle with Mrs. T in bed. Therefore, Mrs. T felt that she had a stronger bond and closer connection with Baby T2.0 compared to Baby T1.0 when both kids were babies. 

As a mother, Mrs. T felt guilty due to the things that we went through with Baby T1.0. She would often reflect back on how she wished she had done things differently. She wished that she would have picked up Baby T1.0 and just fed him when he was crying, she wished that she would have cuddled with Baby T1.0 more, and so on and so on.

The other day, Mrs. T had a revelation. She realized that whatever happened in the past, she cannot change. That boat has sailed long ago. She can either continue to dwell on the past and feel bad for herself, or she can look forward to the future and be responsible for what she can change and take action on. Our path in the past has already been written. The only thing we can do now is focus on the present moment and make decisions that will shape what our future path will look like. 

With this revelation, Mrs. T felt relieved and free. She now looks forward to spending more time with both Baby T1.0 and Baby T2.0, so that they can make stronger bonds and build on the mother-child relationship. 

By now, you’re probably wondering what the heck does this story have anything to do with personal finance and financial independence retire early?

We are about nine years into our financial independence journey. Looking back, I have made a lot of financial mistakes like listening to hot stock buying tips, investing in mutual funds and GICs, not asking for a higher salary earlier, chasing yields, not saving earlier,etcand so on, both before and after our financial epiphany.

For a while, I looked at these mistakes and questioned myself why I was so dumb to make these stupid financial mistakes. I should have known better. I should have done differently!

“If I had done X and Y differently, I would have had so much more money now…” I’d say to myself. 

And what if we had sold all of our stocks in mid-Feb, before the stock market went for a crazy tumble due to COVID-19? What if we had invested all of our money in Zoom stocks in Feb at around $90 USD and sold them at around $270? 

Oh, there are so many “what if?” questions! 

Just like what Mrs. T was doing, I was dwelling on my previous financial mistakes instead of looking ahead and preparing for what’s out there.  

The thing is, we all make mistakes. Mistakes happen and they are inevitable in life. Life is making a series of mistakes, learning from them, and becoming a better human being from these mistakes. Can you imagine what our lives might look like if everything was perfect and we never made any mistakes? We probably would complain all the time about how we wanted more adversities.

Funny how life works that way, right?     

Becoming financially independent and retiring early in your 40’s doesn’t make you successful in life. Financial independence retire early does not define success in life! To me, success means making an impact to others around you. Success means helping the community and making the community a better place.

Stop comparing yourself to the past self. If you keep doing that, you will never move forward in your life. Get over the past mistakes, learn from them, and make decisions based on what you know today. If you make more mistakes, rinse and repeat!  

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12 thoughts on “Stop comparing yourself to the past self”

  1. I would probably be stressed out every day if I looked back at all the financial mistakes I made in the past. Missed opportunities, companies that failed, insane consumerism, buying new every year….the list goes all. The only thing I can do is learn from it, move on and make good choices in the future which in themselves will probably be sprinkled with more mistakes. We are human

    Reply
    • Yea I’d be the same too if I always look back at all the financial mistakes and missed opportunities that I made in the past. It’s important to learn from these and move on. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Actually, technically, financial independence in your 40s is a success. I feel over the years that you’ve displayed continuous effort to get a financial independence, which is great. But you’ve also demonstrated continuous frustration.

    I sense you’re frustrated that you are not further along your financial independence compared to your peers as you would want. Hence, why you are writing this post.

    The reality is, some people will always be richer than you, have more popular websites than you, and so forth. It’s good you’re trying to let go.

    Reply
    • Hi Jimmy,

      Not really frustrated with our FI progress. In fact, we’re happy where we’re at. You’re right, some people will always be ahead of you and that’s something you have to come and accept. 🙂

      Reply
  3. I can relate well to your experiences as I have a 4 year old and 8 year old. The first one was harder the second one was a little easier. I find after 5 years old they get easier to handle. In terms of milk feeding we were not so rigid in terms of times. We also did whatever we could just to keep them as quiet as possible and let as much sleep as possible. I’m so glad those days are gone.

    Reply
  4. We had many sleepless nights for about 5 years with two little ones. Now they are 4 and 7 and we are finally all sleeping well.

    “what if we had sold all of our stocks in mid-Feb” I can totally relate. I was on vacation in california, sipping wine in Napa. On the limo tour I was reading more and more news of Covid and thought, I should sell now. But then, I thought, no this is nothing it will blow over. Boy was I wrong.

    Reply
  5. I’m not sure who said it first, but “comparison is the root of unhappiness” is very very true.

    Unfortunately the world teaches us to live by comparison, setting us up for a life of perpetual unhappiness. It’s a tough habit to break, and one I’m still trying to get better at.

    Cheers Tawcan!

    Reply

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