Best of 2011: The Comparison Trap
Each year, during the end of December, we look back over the most popular posts of the year while I step away from writing to enjoy the Christmas Season with my family.
Maybe you missed these the first time around.
Maybe you’d like to read them again…
Original run date: March 8, 2011. I wrote three blog series in 2011. One of them I called “Freedom From Perfection.” Writing this particular series brought me more personal freedom than any series I’ve written thus far. And judging from reader comments, I think it resonated with a lot of you, too. Here is Part 8.
The other day, I went a-searchin’ for a women’s conference to attend this year. A conference to nourish and refresh my soul and give me an event to look forward to, as I impatiently wait for spring to arrive. I googled around until I found one I thought might suit my fancy. (Why I’m talking like I lived in the 1800’s, I do not know.)
I then started reading through the speaker bios. They went a bit like this:
Susie Smith is a homeschooling mother of six. She and her husband live on a farm where she creates nightly meals from scratch with the organic food she has grown and harvested with her bare hands. Her passions include scrapbooking, home interior design, green living, frugal living, women’s ministry, and nurturing sick and orphaned animals back to health. She is the author of seven books and the wildly popular blog, I Have it All Together, Why Don’t You?
(insert professional headshot of beautiful, flawless woman)
Jenny Jones has lived in seven countries and dreams of living in five more. She is a homeschooling mother of four, ages 6, 5, 4, and 2. She and her husband are expecting quadruplets in the fall. She is a marathon runner and plans to complete her 20th marathon just before delivering the quads. She has led over 50,000 people to Christ, through her personal discipleship and mentoring program. In her spare time, she enjoys writing best-selling cookbooks, and has appeared on Food Network, The Today Show, Oprah and Ellen.
(Insert professional headshot of beautiful, flawless, buff woman)
Alright. I’m exaggerating. A little. There was no one pregnant with quads. But every one of these women were simply unbelievable. I wish I could say that as I read through the bios, I celebrated each woman’s accomplishments and considered how I might glean something from her, should I attend this women’s conference. But I would be exaggerating again.
Instead, I was jealous. With every bio, I compared that woman’s accomplishments to my own. And mine fell painfully short.
Sandy Cooper is a stressed-out mom of three. She knows she could never home school because she dreads daily the overseeing of 3rd grade math homework with her 9-year-old . Every morning she wakes up wondering how she’s going to get it all done. And most days she doesn’t. She loves to write and actually has some pretty good ideas, but has a terrible time keeping up with her blogs. Sometimes she forgets to bathe her 4-year-old. She dreams of changing the world, but often puts off changing light bulbs and the kitty litter.
(insert un-touched picture of me in sweats and no make-up, taking a nap)
After my brutal exercise in self-deprecation, I simply didn’t measure up. The more I read and compared, the more defeated and deflated I became. Until, finally, I just clicked off the website, turned off my computer and shuffled my pathetic, underachieving-self into bed. So much for “nourish and refresh my soul.”
For those of us struggling to be free from Perfectionism, The Comparison Trap is a dangerous place in which to linger. We are constantly told that “no one is perfect” and that “perfection is unattainable.” And we know this is true, logically. But it’s hard for us Perfectionists to internalize these truths when we come across others who are living what we define as a perfect or near-perfect life.
Maybe you aren’t comparing yourself to writer/speaker/moms, like I am. But you are comparing yourself to the neighbor with the beautifully decorated, always immaculate home. Or the couple with the thriving, healthy marriage. Or the family with the polite, intelligent and spiritually mature children. Or the minister with the massive following and booked speaking calendar. Or the executive with the top-level, high-paying position.
To us, they appear perfect. Or near-perfect. We see them. We envy them. We wonder what we are doing wrong. And the bondage of Perfectionism continues as we erect an even higher standard with which we feel compelled to judge ourselves.
The older I get—and the more my peers accomplish in life—the more brutal The Comparison Trap becomes for me. Sometimes I feel like everyone is dashing past me, doing all the things I envision for myself. Things I thought I would have already accomplished by now. Yet, I’m limping breathlessly behind, buried in a pile of laundry or stuck in a line of 1,000 vehicles in the carpool line.
This is not the “liberty” Jesus intended for me!
I sense God is wanting to give me total victory here. Thus, He is providing numerous opportunities for me to mature. It seems lately, I have been faced with countless women who appear to have attained “perfection” in some area of life. An area where I currently struggle. An area where I long for success. And I sense God asking me,
“How will you respond? Will you compare yourself with her? Or will you walk confidently in My will for your life? Will you strive to be like her? Or will you rest in My grace, knowing I only expect you to listen for My voice and humbly obey? Will you define your success and failure by your flawed perception of someone else’s success? Or will you allow Me to define you with the Truth of My Word? Which will it be, Sandy?”
For the last few weeks, as I’ve worked through the issues of Perfectionism for the sake of this series, God has revealed to me that a major component in conquering my Perfectionism lies in decimating The Comparison Trap.
I had no idea how much mental energy I spent in the cycle of looking at others/comparing myself/falling short/beating myself up/trying harder.
It’s bondage. Complete and utter bondage.
I’m seeking God’s guidance and asking Him to reveal to me the pathway to freedom from The Comparison Trap. I have some ideas that I’m pretty sure are from God. I want to share them in Part 9. So, please come back.
Part 8 is the post you are reading
thanks for the repost – i benefited from it the first time around and i think we could all use the reminder this time of year. when my neighbors are baking cookies and i could bake my way out of a paper sack, its good to remember that there is a reason God gave me the spouse He did. and one of those reasons is that he doesn't care much for baked goods 😉
I missed this one the first time around, but I am so glad I got it this time. I LOVED your "bio" of yourself–too funny (probably because I could relate so well). I have a feeling I know what conference you were referencing–the same one I had signed up for, then sold my ticket because I didn't homeschool and was afraid I wouldn't fit in. 🙂
Can I use your personal bio for my own?!?! Because short of the kitty litter, I'm pretty sure we live parallel lives!
This was a great one as well – thanks for the repost!!