I have wasted many good years gravitating toward one "solution" after another. Chasing the high of change was something that I was guilty of for so long it's pathetic. A new relationship, moving to a new apartment, setting some goal to work toward, acquiring some item that guaranteed a life of fulfillment and comfort, achieving some sort of success, gaining someone's approval, concealing my flaws, being fit, trim and never gaining weight, gaining so much weight that I would finally have the curves of an actual adult woman... all of these pointless and vain pursuits are actual examples of "fixes" I am guilty of chasing. (Most, if not all, proved to be an exercise in futility, except for acquiring those bodacious curves which, obviously, was a wildly successful endeavor
So, yes, I have a long history of vanity and self-obsession. Surprise! I have struggled with comparing myself to others for about.... hmmmm a lifetime or so. Minimizing this month has made me aware of how far I have come in some ways (I no longer believe that there is some "fix" but I know there to be an actual solution to my discontentment, something - or rather someone worth pursuing. I have learned that knowing Jesus and being covered by His perfect work on the cross, and knowing that His grace is enough for me has allowed me to be just a tiny bit less absurd as a person. Now, when I do catch myself wandering in my mind to the illusion of greener grass, or lusting after some thing that promises to solve all my problems, I can at least stop myself and know that I am believing a lie.
In other ways, I know that I have made very little progress. Below is a post I wrote more than THREE YEARS AGO. I get into the nitty gritty of how sick of a woman I really was and sadly, still am. Re-reading it has revealed that while I am purging all this "stuff" I no longer need, I have not made much progress in uprooting the the deeply embedded cause of my desire to have more: jealousy and comparison.
Here is an (unfortunately still-relevant) assessment of the damage that this comparison trap has had in my life, called Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better, which I wrote back in the summer of 2011. Beware, this was written when I didn't have the energy to capitalize sentences.
i might have a seriously major problem. comparing myself to others has been a lifelong infection of mine. i intentionally choose the word infection because that is what it is. infection is defined as being tainted or contaminated with something that affects quality, character, or condition unfavorably.
comparing myself to others is something that affects life's quality, my personal character and the condition of my heart unfavorably. i am a sick, sick woman.
i think that this infection (for me) started at childbirth. i was born 18 short months after my organized and athletically gifted sister, who could do almost anything better than me. she was a more disciplined student, a much better athlete, and she always had her uniforms washed by game day. comparatively, i was a bright, but distracted student who rarely "applied herself." i was mediocre at sports, and had to sneak out of school during my lunch hour to go home and wash my uniform on game day. and i usually washed the home jersey for away games, and vice versa. my antics irritated my sister, and almost anyone in a position of authority.
don't get me wrong, i wasn't a complete idiot. i'm just a little more free-spirited than your average apply-oneself-er. it's not that i got bad grades, they just didn't reflect my potential. one semester in college, i decided that i would actually try to get a 4.0. i had 18 credit hours that semester, so it was the perfect time to see if i really had what it takes to ace a challenging course load. i got a 4.0. i didn't tell anyone at the time, and i never tried to apply myself so thoroughly ever again.
while i may not have told anyone, i kept track of that achievement in my mind. if someone out-performed me in school... i could always say "well, if i had applied myself, i would have done just as well." (comparison: victory for me.) it is really out of self-preservation that i needed a secret comparison victory like this, because i spent the other 99% of my life feeling bad about the losses in most comparisons: "wow, that girls has incredibly thick hair, but not frizzy-thick, her hair is smooth, shiny, pantene-commerical-thick. my hair isn't so much thick, as it is big. not pantene-big, but 80's-big." (comparison: loss for me.) "her kids know all their state capitols?? and they recite the old testament in its entirety out loud before dinner? and they eat the egg whites? unsalted!? she is super mom. i'm the worst." (comparison: loss for me.) "but, her kids don't understand dry humor." (comparison: victory.)
do you see what i mean? i'm totally sick and infected. it's like the circular argument i am constantly having in my head: i am the worst-----> at least i'm not as bad as that guy-------> i am a total fool-------> she acted dumber than i did--------> i wish i could be her-----------> i could probably beat her up in a survival situation-----------> i would never act like that!----------> i can't believe i acted like that----------> i'm the worst----------> i can't believe that i am seriously the best.
sick. twisted. infected.
i hate comparing myself to others. i usually lose out to some busty broad who fills out her dress like a proper adult... and to make myself feel better, i try to find a comparison victory to make myself feel better. so, i search and i come up with something like, at least i know not to wear the sock/sandal combination that lady is rockin'. it's horrible, and it doesn't make me feel better. it makes me feel like a huge jerk. which leads to "well, at least i'm not as big of a jerk as...."
if all of you egg my house tonight, i will understand why. i just egged it for saying this stuff out loud.
so, i have been contemplating the comparison trap. i have realized that it leads (in my mind) to some perceived loss or victory. the losses, obviously, make me feel horrible. and the victories make me feel a little better for a hot second, but ultimately make me feel horrible. the trap is this: "victories" lead to pride (sickening), or "losses" lead to self-loathing (sickening.) either way, comparing myself to others makes me more and more self-focused and sickening by the second. so, i quit.
i am giving up comparisons. i am choosing to believe that i am fearfully and wonderfully made, and so is everyone else. no better, no worse. we are all made in the image of a good and perfect God who is neither impressed by my "victories", nor disgusted at my "losses." so, i am choosing to agree with God on who i am, and who others are. i am going to stop measuring myself against other women, and start measuring myself against who i know God created me to be.
this is going to be really hard because it all happens in my head where there is zero accountability. so, if you see me deep in thought, just slap me right across the face as hard as you can because i am, undoubtedly, comparing myself to someone else. i will gladly do the same for all my sisters out there who are stuck in this same sick trap of comparing ourselves, and our families, and our gifts, and our faults, and so on...
i'll even bet i can slap harder than you can slap.
So, I have decided that since I have clearly not grown up at all in the past three years, I am going to use the comparison trap to my advantage. I WILL compare myself to others, but I will strive to compare my current state of affairs not to that of the average American woman, but to the women of Sierra Leone. This comparison can not possibly lead to one of those ugly "victories or losses" but I am finding that this comparison leads to the acknowledgement that I am sitting on a life that overflows with an embarrassment of riches. Knowing this leads to an overwhelming need to be more generous and more grateful, and I believe that generosity and gratitude are the antidote to a life of discontentment, excess or wanderlust. And if I cannot solve the myriad of crises in Sierra Leone, I can, at the very least, be aware, and my hope is that I could honor their struggle by living a life in response to, and in light of, that awareness.