Thursday, February 11, 2016

Giving Up the Crutch of Comparison - A Valentine's Day/Lent Challenge to Love Yourself

If comparison is the thief of joy
then the root of comparison is a deep need for trust...
and the courage to love ourselves.

If I asked you to make a list of things you love about yourself, I bet you'd struggle to come up with more than just a few.

But, if I asked you to make a list of the things you dislike about yourself, I bet you could fill up the page lickity-split.

If your pen is stuck in place on the "what I love about myself" list, then you're not alone. I'm right there with you. And, I'd venture to say that most women in this world are, too.

Why is that? Why do we feel this way about ourselves?

I started asking that question a couple of months ago, when I was up in the middle of the night, sitting on the living room floor keeping company with the dust bunnies and Christmas ornaments that had been ejected from the dilapidated tree earlier that day.

I was too angry and too frustrated to sleep, and this was not something that Netflix and a gin and tonic was going to fix. Although they're my favorite band-aids, they're not so hot at healing.

The feelings of grief and frustration had been building up inside of me for weeks, and as hard as I worked to stifle them behind a smile and a busy schedule, they could no longer be contained. I was tired of feeling irritated, tired of losing sleep.  It was simply time to deal with it.

How long is too long to wrestle with an interior burden? A few days, a few weeks, what about more years than you can count?  Ever since I can remember I've been dragging around the weight of comparison, a weight that has bruised my flesh, battered my heart and beaten me at every single mind game I'd every played against it.

For whatever reason, that very restless night I decided I couldn't take it any longer, and I wasn't going to leave the living room until I figured out how to fix it.

What I discovered, after about two hours, was that I couldn't fix it, not on my own, anyway.  God was going to have to fix it in me.  And, I had to trust Him, to do so.

Comparison never walks into your life alone, it brings along with it self-doubt, insecurity, and the disillusioned belief that every other mother, woman, wife, and friend has got it together - everyone except for you. (I've only been duped by that lie a thousand times, how about you?)

In the two hours that I was hunkered down with the dust bunnies I wish I could tell you that something radical happened, like I saw a light, heard a voice, or that the angel of reason appeared to straighten me out. Sorry, but no.

What did happen was more of a stirring than a strike of lightening. Isn't that just how God works?

I started to think about why it is that I feel like trying to be more so much more like others is better than being myself, the very person God made me to be in the first place.

Because, isn't that what we do when we make comparisons? When we measure ourselves against others?  It's a slippery slope.  Once we give in to those feelings of inadequacy or inferiority, because we believe that there's someone out there that we should be more like, we completely lose sight of who we are meant to be.

The truth is, there are better people out there - people with more talents, more skills, more opportunities, more friends, and more energy. There are prettier people, smarter people, funnier people, stronger, fitter, skinnier people, people with better ideas, better social skills, better marriages, better jobs...

Maybe they are our neighbors, our family, our friends, people at work, or people we just "know" online. Whoever they are, when all we can see is their "grass is greener" life on the other side of the fence, and we use that as a measuring stick for our own personal sense of purpose and well-being, we cannot possibly love and appreciate the person that God has created us to be.

Even more, how can God do a great work in us, when all we can see is everything everyone else is, and everything that we're not?

Looking at ourselves and the world isn't just blindness, it's madness.

How many times have you read a blog or walked away from Pinterest feeling like you're just not enough?  I see this play out all of the time on social media.  Women, you and I, announcing just how tired we are of how "this post made me feel this way or that," or, "she thinks she's such an expert," or "I'm tired of people telling me how to feel or what to do."

No one.  No one is telling us how to feel or what to do. We are the ones who allow it.  If we're going to open the doors of our hearts and homes to social media and the internet, then we'd better realize and accept that the internet is one big fat naval-gazing pit of opinions.

If what you read online motivates you in a positive way to become more virtuous, then read away my friends! Just realize that everything we give our time and attention to, be it the opinions, blogs, or the seemingly perfect pictures of others has an effect on us.

Those virtual experiences can either make us bitter or better.

Unfortunately, most of the time they can leave us feeling bitter.

How do I know? Because I see post after post of women apologizing, defending, and explaining in great detail exactly why we do certain things.  Why we homeschool or why we think homeschooling is lame, why we breastfeed why we think breastfeed is scandalous, because by golly everyone needs to know what we think, and hopefully, fingers crossed, someone out there will approve of us.

And just a little approval, just a little solidarity, might take the edge off of the stings of worthlessness and self-doubt, yeah?

Wouldn't it be nice to jump off of that roller coaster of comparison? To be free of those negative feelings toward ourselves? Well, I'll tell ya, it's not going to come from abandoning the web, although, that's not a bad place to start (at least try scaling things back a bit).

Roots of comparison run deep, so you gotta be ready to dig 'em up.  And that isn't easy, but it's possible, so very possible.

Do you want to know how I kicked the comparison crutch to the curb?


I decided to trust God. (Sorry if that's not what you wanted to hear, but it's the truth, y'all.)

There in the darkness, in the middle of the night, I embraced the truth that:
He made me.  And He loves me. A lot.

What would happen if I really allowed myself to trust that love?  And what if I loved Him back by letting go of who I think I should be (according to my little world of comparisons) and instead found rest in the truth that He knows better than I do.  That He does not make mistakes.  That He does not need me to look at everyone else to see who I should be, but look to Him instead. To please Him instead.  To let His approval and love for me be my source of confidence.

I want to challenge us - you and I - this Lent and this Valentine's Day to do something totally different than we've ever done before.

What if this year, for Lent, instead of giving up chocolate and Netflix, you joined me in giving up the crutch of comparison?

That means loosening your grip on self-doubt, self-criticism, and a shattered sense of self-worth. (See how all of those burdens begin with "self?"  That's pride, my friends, and pride is no good.)
That means finding the courage within ourselves and daring to believe that it's OKAY leave those burdens behind to make room for something better.  Something like real love, God's love for us, and an authentic love for ourselves.

Lent is a time to think less of self and more of others, especially more of Christ, right? Do you think if we take our focus off of ourselves and and put it on Him, that His love, His approval, His plans for us can be enough?

I do.

Now, how about Valentine's Day?

What if this year, for the first time ever, you decided to love yourself for a change? Um, err...what?  Self-love. Yeah, it's not as simple as it seems, is it?

To love ourselves doesn't mean following the "you deserve to be happy" mentality that the world promotes.  It's not about taking a fancy trip or buying a designer purse. It means loving yourself enough to look in the mirror each and every day, faults and struggles and sin and all, and choosing to believe that you are a child of a gracious, loving and merciful God who can make you better.

It means being patient with yourself and then extending that patience to others.
It means seeing the good in yourself, and then striving to see the good in others, no matter what your differences may be.  It means being okay with not being the best or even great at everything, but being just right at a few things, and using those just right gifts to serve others.

Today I woke up to the sound of my beautiful, happy, chubby baby calling out my name.  We strolled to the kitchen together, just the two of us, and stuffed our faces with blueberries and toast.  With purple lips he grinned and me, and his eyes sparkled with the most pure affection.  He loves me.  Just as I am.  And, that love is the Lord reminding me that my value rests not in being someone the world approves of but in being a child of God. Now that, my friends, is where my my courage and my confidence, not my comparison, should come from.


{Looking for a little written encouragement? I have found this book to be very helpful.}


  1. AMEN. Susan, for as long as I've known you (thank you internet for introducing us) I have loved you for who you are: strong, capable, generous, kind, beautiful, optimistic, honest and a true friend. You're a gift and I love this post. I'm with you.

  2. "No one is telling us how to feel or what to do. We are the ones who allow it. If we're going to open the doors of our hearts and homes to social media and the internet, then we'd better realize and accept that the internet is one big fat naval-gazing pit of opinions."
    Wow. Ain't that the truth! I think a lot of women need to hear this and internalize it, especially me! Thank you for the (kind!) kick in the pants! It's just what I needed this afternoon.

  3. Susan, this is fantastic!!!! So many things I love about this reflection...I really like how you address that "we are the ones who allow it"-because oftentimes, myself and other women victimize ourselves with, "Oh, it's not my fault that I feel cruddy. It's HER fault for writing a blog post about x,y,z or posting a picture, etc." Nope. Like you said so well, the internet is a place where people share opinions, thoughts, and images, and we each make the conscious decision to engage or interact with those opinions.
    I also really like how you bring up putting the focus on God. Recently, a priest told me that a good way to combat pride (something I struggle with, which is a form of comparison) is to remember that "I am a beloved, cherished daughter of the Father." If you focus totally on how much God loves you in particular, and delight in that loving relationship, it becomes a lot less habitual to fall into comparison.
    Finally, I appreciate the quote you used at the start of this post! When I was a freshman in college (FUS), my household sisters said "comparison is the thief of joy" all the time. Do you know who came up with that? Because I've heard it other places, too-and that person is really wise & totally awesome :)

  4. This was beautifully written because it is so honest and real. I will join you in keeping my eyes heavenward and remembering that God has grace always. That little book looks like a good read. Fr Phillipe has some life changing words.

  5. I try to teach this lesson to my kids, and often forget it applies to me too. Thanks for the reminder:)

  6. I try to teach this lesson to my kids, and often forget it applies to me too. Thanks for the reminder:)

  7. I'm crying reading this. I really needed this today. THANK YOU, amazing sister.

  8. Wow, Susan. I really needed this post. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and your beautiful heart with us.

  9. I have come to really enjoy doing the Litany Prayer of Humility. I prayed with it knowing I was going to see someone, that despite my attempts to thwart comparison, I felt very competitive with.

  10. Oh dear honey to the soul are your words......hugs.

  11. Love this, thank you for saying it so well!

  12. Thank you for this post; needed to read it today!


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