Let’s backtrack to about third grade, here.
It was math time. My teacher was explaining inequalities on the whiteboard. You know – the greater than, less than, equal too stuff. The “alligator eats the bigger number and points to the little number” analogy. (To this day sometimes I swear I still have to think real hard about which way to face that arrow, but that’s neither here nor there…)
The problem wasn’t that I didn’t understand what she was teaching me. It wasn’t even that I failed the quiz. I actually did really well with this, especially with a little bit of practice. I even got one of those scented smiley face stickers on my guided practice homework for doing a good job! The problem was that I took that simple third grade math lesson and applied it to my entire life, exactly in all the ways that you’re not supposed to.
I started comparing myself to others around me, to the point where I felt like the smaller number the alligator was picking on.
The Less Than.
And you know what? Between you and me, I still sometimes catch myself doing it to this day.
But I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that I’m not the only one who looks at my reflection through the Mirror of Comparative Oppression. We all do it sometimes, even if we don’t realize it. But some of us can take it a little too far to the point where it consumes our minds and completely diminishes or even destroys our self-image and confidence.
And I hear you, it’s rough. Especially when we see That Girl. You know, the one who has that really cute Michael Kors designer handbag we eyeball every time we walk by that store in the mall, tan and toned legs, better hair, less acne, no love handles, and a zillion and one friends. Or how about That Guy, who has a convertible in his three-car garage, an 8 pack, runs five miles a day, and can bench press 220 at the gym. The “Old Me” in that pre-motherhood photo that reminds us we will never again have that much energy or be able to wear our favorite pair of jeans anymore. That co-worker who always gets the promotions and awards while we’re left on the sidelines unnoticed. That friend who is married, has four beautiful kids, and travels the world while we’re sitting alone and single and barren in the dark, talking to our five cats on a Friday night. Or that person who always seems to spew all things rainbows, butterflies, and confetti when sometimes all we feel is depression, loneliness, and guilt creeping in.
Some people call it jealousy. Some people call it insecurity. But I call it forgetfulness.
Because friend, when did we forget who we are and who we belong to?
I also call it blindness.
Because friend, we have no idea how those people we constantly compare and contrast ourselves with got to where they are, nor the struggles they had to face to get there.
And I also call it nonsense.
Because friend, we HAVE to STOP DOING IT.
One of my favorite passages of scripture to reference when I am feeling this way is Ephesians 2:19-22.
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.”
What a perfect proclamation that we don’t have to second guess ourselves, be better than someone else, or put pressure on ourselves to be something more than what we are because in His eyes we are exactly what He designed us to be – His! He assures us that if we trust Him enough to build our self-image through His eyes instead of our own, we will feel Him dwelling in our hearts and know that we are so, so loved and way more than enough.
So the next time you feel unloved, unimportant, or insecure and want to start comparing yourself to That Girl and That Guy and pointing that alligator sign away from you, remember to whom you belong.
Because you are so much more to Him than a Less Than.