I compare myself to others. “Does he have more than me?”, “Are they better off?”, “Are their kids smarter?” are just some of the questions on my exhausting comparison treadmill.
Do you constantly compare yourself with others?
I’ve recently discovered that I’m not the only person who struggles with comparison. One of my friends Laurie shared some of her story with me. I asked if she’d write a guest post for us today.
In addition to being a committed follower of Christ, gifted musician, and creative, Laurie is blessed with three kids, seven grandkids and has been married to her best friend Gary for 48 years.
Let me just begin by saying that this is a work in process for me. I don’t want to sound like I have this all figured out – or that I think I have it all together, because I don’t. But, I will tell you a little about my journey.
The struggle with comparison really began for me when I was a young wife and mother in my thirties, with three small children. I was trying desperately to keep things in order, to keep all of my plates spinning at the same time. Yet, no matter how hard I tried, I was in a bit of a frazzle. I arrived everywhere I was going just a little bit late with at least one child in tears.
I became focused upon comparing myself to other mothers, and I fell hopelessly short. This friend’s house was always neat, and her kitchen counters sparkled. That friend’s children were better behaved and always beautifully dressed. Another friend always looked put together, with toenail polish matching her lipstick.
I couldn’t keep up with the toys and shoes and little piles of jackets and socks that seemed to collect in the family room. My kitchen counters were always sticky, and my floors looked like I had three kids and two dogs running through the house all day. My friend’s homes were neater, more creatively decorated, their children better dressed, their family incomes higher, their clothes far more stylish, their marriages happier – and on and on.
In every area of my life, I became focused on comparison, and I fell short. From my perspective, I was a mess as a wife, a mother, and as a musician.
Gradually, I began to doubt my self, my creativity, and began to reject musical opportunities out of fear of failure. I was crippled by the lens of comparison through which I was looking at my life. And then, a woman in our church whose life and ministry I greatly respected took me aside and said to me: “Laurie, God designed you with the gifts and abilities that you have because He intends to use you. If you stifle the creative voice that He has given you, who will sing the songs He has for you to sing?”
I went home from my time with her and wrote in my journal, “God created me to be me because He intends to use me.” And that was the beginning of understanding for me.
When I became the mother of three children, God didn’t make a mistake. I was the one God had designed to be the mother of these three little people, not my friend with the shiny kitchen counters. I began to understand that I needed to stop looking at the other mothers in my life, and begin looking at the needs of my children and how I could best help them.
When God placed in me a heart for worship and a love of music, it was not a mistake. It was His purpose to use the voice He had given me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this the past week or so – and I realized that in comparing myself constantly with other women, other mothers, other musicians – seeing only their strengths and my weaknesses – I was kind of like a violin who decided one day that it did not like being a violin at all. In fact, it was completely disgusted with being a violin. It didn’t like the way it sounded, or the way it looked. It didn’t like that it was made of plain old wood. And so it said to it’s maker: “I hate the way you made me! I’m dull and brown, and I can only make these annoying string sounds. I no longer want to be a violin. I want instead to be a trumpet. A trumpet is all golden and shiny and gets to stand up in the orchestra and make these bright beautiful brass sounds. I just have to sit on my owner’s shoulder and depend upon a bow to make me play. You made a mistake. You should have made me a trumpet.” And the maker said to the violin. “But, if you become a trumpet, your voice will be gone from the orchestra. No one but you has your voice, and that sweet sound would be lost. I have a trumpet already, and it is beautiful, but I don’t need another one. If you were to become a trumpet, who would sing the song that I have written for you to sing?”
You have searched me, Lord, and You know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue Lord, you know it completely… For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
I am learning that there is only one whose life I can fully look up to, only one whose life I should seek to emulate, and that one is Jesus.