We have all been sick at my house for the last month. Everyone took a turn (make that two turns!) … which means I still have my Christmas decorations up and the house is pretty messy! I forgot my dentist appointment today and when they called me I started scrambling to find a babysitter. Then I remembered that I left the car light on in my car last night, and this morning my husband informed me that the battery was dead … So even if I had remembered my appointment I still wouldn’t have been able to get there.
Sometimes days like these make me feel inadequate. I start thinking negative thoughts about myself and think that surely everyone else must be much more put together than I am.
Even though I know that we all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses, I still find myself judging and comparing myself to others. I idealize someone’s life and think that they must have it all figured out. It’s easy to think they must be happy all the time and are better than I am.
This Christmas my husband and son and I went to a very popular multicultural Christmas concert. In order to get good seats we arrived about an hour early. I got up to walk around a little and on my way out of the chapel this beautiful petite blonde woman came walking in. She had a gorgeous smile and she looked at me right in the eye and smiled and I smiled back. After I passed by her I started comparing myself to or idealizing this woman. “She is so beautiful, petite, and kind” I thought. Then I drew a conclusion. My conclusion was this: Whoever is that beautiful, looks at a stranger, holds eye contact AND smiles like that, must have it all.
When I came back and sat down, to my surprise, she was sitting in front of me with her husband, an older son, and some friends or family. Right before the concert started someone approached her bench, leaned over and told her that she and her family were in their prayers.
Immediately, I started wondering why this “perfect” woman would need the prayers of others. I started to realize that my judgments and assumptions were not only most likely wrong, but that this kind, sweet, lady may actually have a trial she was battling.
Later, about midway into the Christmas program, a girl got up to introduce the next song and mentioned that the last time she sang it was at her brother’s funeral. This lady in front of me had tears streaming down her face. My friend who was sitting with us and who used to sing with this choir leaned over to me and very quietly told me that this girl was the daughter of the blonde lady in front of me. The family (the gorgeous “perfect” lady) had lost their son in a hiking accident this year. I couldn’t help but cry.
I felt so much sympathy and some empathy (as I have a son) and I couldn’t believe that I imagined not thirty minutes ago that this lady must “have it all.”
Judging and comparing are things that we, as women, do naturally. A few women may not, but certainly I, and many others, get caught up in this trap. The problems with judging and comparing are two fold:
1. We don’t know what battles others are fighting
Even when, from the outset some people look like they are perfect or seem to have it all, they may be dealing with some of life’s hardest challenges. Cancer, Death, Depression, Grief, Financial Issues, Abuse, Infertility, etc. We don’t know what battles people are fighting.
In Junior High I was the Student Body President and the soccer captain. From the outside many may have thought I had it all. Yet, I was struggling with some of the toughest battles I would ever fight so far in life. Many a distant friend would comment on how lucky I was to be, as they would often say, “popular, beautiful, and have it all.”
Little did they know the depth of trial I was in and how I was struggling daily just to endure. Once I shared what was going on with a few close friends. They were in disbelief, and admitted to me that they thought I was the luckiest girl in the school. Once they found out about my struggles, they were kind and supportive, and even helped me during this time.
Unless you know the person extremely well and they are very open with you about their life, you never know. You just don’t.
2. When you compare yourself to another you are often comparing your weakness to another’s strengths.
We have all been dealt a different hand of cards in life. Comparing our worst card to someone else’s best card not only doesn’t make sense in the game of cards or in life, but it also means we lose every time. Comparing is almost never a good thing, but often we make it worse by comparing the best of others to where we fall short.
On the flip side, if we try to build ourselves up by comparing our best to someone else’s worst, we still lose because comparisons are never a full representation of a person’s worth. They are arbitrary and often based on insufficient facts or knowledge. The best way to gain acceptance of oneself and of others is to replace these negative thoughts with thoughts of acceptance, love, and compassion for ourselves and those around us.
My sister-in-law just told me about a lady she knows who moved to the U.S. from a European country. She wanted to fit in and began wanting to look like and have the things others have. She began comparing herself to others and even envying those that seemed to “have it all.”
One day she realized that the women she was wanting to become had real challenges and were fighting battles of their own. She decided that if she was going to WANT to have all the good she sees others having, she must also be willing to take the bad they have to endure as well.
Her realization was very inspiring and enlightening to me. To be envious or to want the good another has comes close to disregarding the pain and challenges they have fought through and the weaknesses they struggle with as well. We have all been dealt a hand of cards, some good, some bad, and to want to trade a person for just their good cards doesn’t work.
The trials and the blessings, the strengths and the weaknesses, are all part of life. We can strive to make our weaknesses strengths but each of us has to do this on our own. We each have to climb the mountains put in our paths and refine our rough edges. No amount of comparing, judging, or envying will make these challenges easier. On the contrary engaging in these negative thoughts may even make progress more difficult to achieve.
I’ve learned this time and time again; and sometimes I fear the lesson will never fully be implemented inside my mind. But I do continue _to try_ to stop: stop judging, stop comparing, and stop envying others.
Replacing the thoughts we don’t want with those we do is often the key to conquering these unwanted tendencies. Turning these unwanted thoughts into thoughts of LOVE, COMPASSION, and ACCEPTANCE for not only yourself but for others as well will create a “richer life” for yourself and for those around you.