Albert Einstein famously said the following: “Every one is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.” More often than not, I believe we are the fish, judging ourselves on our inability to climb a tree. And, time and time again, we live in the lie that we are inadequate.
One night, as I was headed to a youth event, I texted my friend Leah, one of the most outgoing, joyful, bubbly, graceful individuals I know. “Channeling my inner Leah,” I typed. Shortly after I hit send, my phone lit up with a text from her: “No need to channel me. God gave you all the gifts you need… just be your beautiful self. The world needs YOU.”
I stopped in my tracks and quickly realized that what was meant to be a compliment to Leah was actually a sort of insult to myself, one that spoke to my feelings of inadequacy.
Isn’t that when we are most prone to comparing ourselves to others? When we are feeling insecure, vulnerable, incompetent, unworthy, or unnoticed? At best, comparing yourself to someone else boosts your confidence by putting that person else down. At worst, comparison sends you into a downward spiral of unworthiness as you become increasingly aware of your faults and shortcomings.
Plagued by Comparison
Have you ever thought any of these things?
“If I was more like (insert name) then… ”
“If I was more (insert skill) then…”
“If only I had what (insert name) has then… ”
Then what? You’d be more attractive? More popular? More loved? More successful? Then you’d be happy?
I used to think like this all the time. I’m not sure how this habit started, but eventually, I was unable to walk by someone, or talk to someone, without comparing myself to him or her.
Have you ever noticed that when you compare yourself to someone, you take your worst trait and hold it up to his or her best trait? This is not an equitable equation, and yet, I compared everything — my looks, my athletic ability, my skills as a musician and artist, my personality, my grades, my intelligence. It was exhausting and I always seemed to come up short.
Weighed down by the chains of comparison, I was unable to live joyfully. I spent so much time focusing on others that I failed to look at myself through God’s eyes.
To you, God speaks these words: “You are my beloved child, with you I am well pleased.”
YOU are God’s beloved. Do you know that? Do you believe that? If you do, do you let that truth resonate in every corner of your being, and do you help others to see that they, too, are God’s beloved?
For some of you, this might be the first time those words are taking root in your heart. Beloved. For others, you have heard it and know it; but there a moments, or days, or even months when you forget who you are and whose you are.
Henri J.M. Nouwen in his book, Life of the Beloved, wrote the following:
“Yes, there is that voice, the voice that speaks from above and from within and that whispers softly or declares loudly: ‘You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests.’ It certainly is not easy to hear that voice in a world filled with voices that shout: You are no good, you are ugly; you are worthless; you are despicable, you are nobody — unless you can demonstrate the opposite.”
It is when we forget we are beloved, when we forget we are God’s precious children—made in His image—that we begin to compare ourselves to others. And when we do, we lose sight of the gifts God has bestowed on us and calls us to share with those around us.
Many Parts, One Body
It can be hard to see those gifts if we’re constantly comparing ourselves to someone else. Sometimes we might think someone else’s gifts are better, or that our gifts are unimportant. Yet being God’s beloved means rejoicing in each other’s differences. It means including others, rather than excluding; it means choosing to be compassionate, rather than competitive; and it means that we look on others’ gifts and talents with love, admiration, and joy, rather than envy, anger, or resentment.
Saint Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, comments on this by using the analogy of the human body. He notes that the body is made up of many parts — hands, eyes, feet, arms, legs. Though these parts are all distinct and have different functions, they are all vitally important to the body. We need all these parts, for if the whole body were an eye, we would not be able to taste or hear. Or, if the whole body were an ear, we would not be able to see or feel. Saint Paul goes on to write:
“As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I do not need you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I do not need you.’ Indeed, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are all the more necessary, and those parts of the body that we consider less honorable we surround with greater honor, and our less presentable parts are treated with greater propriety, whereas our more presentable parts do not need this.”
So you see, we all need each other because together we make up the Body of Christ.
The other day, I was driving in my car listening to my favorite playlist. Sara Bareilles’ I Wanna Be Me came on, and as I was belting out the song, I was struck by the lyrics:
What if I don’t wanna be like you?
Not to tear you down
What if I don’t wanna be like you?
Because I found I was made to be exactly like me
I wanna be like me
I want you to be like you, too! But how do you do that when you’re caught in the snares of comparison?
- Write down a handful of things you love about yourself and put that list in a place you will see each day, like your mirror, locker, or notebook.
- If you say something negative about yourself, follow it up by saying three positive things about yourself.
- Compliment someone new every day. When I was overcome by insecurity, I found it really difficult to complement other people’s strengths. I wanted the compliments, and I didn’t want unnecessary attention put on other people. It was pretty selfish, but as I learned to love myself, I learned to love other people’s talents as well. Whenever I compliment other people, I’m often surprised by how grateful they are. Guess what? Most people don’t recognize their gifts and talents either; we’re better at focusing on our weaknesses. Help others realize their belovedness! It will bring you joy, I promise.
- Surround yourself with people who love you for who you are and encourage you to be the best version of yourself.
- Get rid of sources that feed your insecurity. I used to lookup #fitspiration on Insta. Rather than being inspired to be more fit, I felt defeated by what I saw. Are there stores you shop at, magazines you subscribe to, or social media accounts you follow that leave you feeling bad about your body? It might be time to find new stores, cancel subscriptions, and hit “unfollow” a few times.
- Remember the phrase, “don’t judge a book by its cover”? Well, the same goes for people. We all have crosses to bear and you don’t know necessarily know all that someone’s struggling with. Someone can appear picture perfect on the outside, but in reality, his or her life might actually be far from perfect. It may seem unfair if someone has all you want in life, but he or she probably worked really hard to get to where there. Don’t compare your journey to someone else’s.
- Continue to pray and ask God to help you see how beloved you are.
The words that Leah spoke to me a few years ago, I wish to speak to you: God gave you all the gifts you need, just be your beautiful self. The world needs YOU.
Know that I’m praying for you.
If you’re feeling the pressure of comparison in your daily life, check out More Than A Pretty Face, where Christina Mead shares her struggle to believe she is beautiful and invites you to come to know the fullness of beauty God has given each one of us.
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