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compared to what?

I was a bit bored. A bit meh, as they say nowadays, with no inclination to work on the plentiful harvest of tasks around me started enthusiastically as recently as yesterday. Instead of getting up from the desk and doing something definite I decided to amble into some vague internet activity. Thought I’d look up a few names from the past. Peek at a few profiles.

Big mistake.

As I read of their apparently glittering lives and careers, I could feel my centre of gravity shift. My air began to escape, soon followed by tears. After an hour or so of this, I was flat, poured out. All my achievements suddenly tiny. My progress miniature. Meaningless. Anxiety pinned me to the ground, like those weights that used to drop from the sky in old Tom & Jerry cartoons.

You see, I haven’t yet grown out of comparing myself with others. A pointless, dangerous activity.

A wonderful discussion broke out on a great blog recently about this sense of inadequacy we all feel (women in particular) when we’re standing near a leggy gorgeous model-type. But our internalised sense of inferiority is what makes us feel cr*p, not how she or he, that glamour puss standing in the spotlight– looks. Surprising numbers of beautiful people feel ugly inside. We somehow believe we’re not quite good enough, or clever enough, or pretty enough or enough enough. I used to spend a lot of time picking at this scab. Comparing myself with my peers, or with people I studied with, or worked, figuring out what I should be aspiring to. Where I should be going, by when.

And where am I now? Right here. Alive. Blessed in countless ways. Challenged every day to get up and get on with it. Mostly succeeding. Making progress towards my own goals, no one else’s. Sometimes remembering to celebrate. So this detour into an old toxic behaviour was a useful lesson.

Don’t play with deliberate sin, a former Bible teacher once said to me. This habit of mine, of seeing what others are doing and comparing myself with them, is a sin for me because it is not based on faith, as it says in Roman 14 v 3. By looking at others I’m not trusting the process that I’m in with God. I’m looking around at the waves, like Peter did when he got out of the boat and started walking on the water towards Jesus. He was doing the impossible under Jesus’s direction until he got distracted.

I was doing the impossible (or at least for me the highly challenging) under Jesus’ direction until I got distracted. Now, my impossible (or highly challenging) may not look like yours. It probably is a bit pedestrian by comparison. But God and I know what progress has been made in this tiny mind and life this last while. And no amount of copying some other beautifully coiffed buffed or polished specimen is going to help me as much as listening to what God is telling me here in my life, in my circumstances, with my hangups and history.

So here’s a reminder for me and perhaps for you, if you need one. If you must measure yourself against someone, choose you. Measure yourself against yourself. Notice your progress. Celebrate your victories, however small. Often just getting through the day with a degree of equilibrium and good humour is victory enough.

11 thoughts on “compared to what?

  1. It helps to compare yourself to people like Frankie Heck – the mom in “the Middle” – love her. (It’s a tv show here in the States, here’s a clip in case you’re unfamiliar.)

  2. Thanks for the reminder, andih. I especially appreciate the encouragement to celebrate even the small successes. Some of mine would be minuscule compared to others, but for me, they show great achievement with God’s help. I learned about celebrating personal victories from therapy, and I encourage that celebration in others. To compare – even my victories- can bring me back down. God is teaching me that it’s about how He’s growing me, how He’s with me, and I don’t even have to measure big vs small successes. It’s His work in me, so all victories count!
    Somehow, I think I’m going to need to lean on this today!

    • ‘I don’t even have to measure big vs small successes. It’s His work in me, so all victories count!’ Absolutely.

  3. Dang, can you write! ‘We somehow believe we’re not quite good enough, or clever enough, or pretty enough or enough enough. I used to spend a lot of time picking at this scab. ‘

    Here’s the other side to that coin. When you stabilize yourself and focus on measuring you against you and all that good stuff, well dabnabbit if some outside interloper doesn’t come along and destabilize all the good work you’ve just done with their own splash of negativity and doing the comparing OF you FOR you! It’s like a never ending 3D battle coming at you from all angles! 🙂

  4. You sound like you need cake. But the thing is, that outside interloper of yours doesn’t know you as well as you do, so s/he can only compare the outside with the outside, if you get my drift. You still know how fantastic you’ve been being. Now find some cake. Do it now. Eat it slowly.

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