“Did you say you run?” the disdain in the woman’s question hung thick over the group. All eyes turned on me as my face turned red in the summer heat.
“I’m training for my first 5K along with my preteen son. We’re having a good time together jogging in the morning, and I feel like I’m getting stronger through the process.” I hoped my answer sounded more confident than I felt.
The woman took a long moment to look me up and down while I squirmed in my Target jeans and t-shirt. She raised an eyebrow silently, then turned her back to me and resumed conversation with our mutual friend. My friend beside me patted my arm. “I admire you for doing that. I don’t think I could get in shape for a race.” We changed the topic to motherhood and coffee before I gratefully excused myself to carry my wide rear end back to the minivan and cry myself home.
Why did the sneers of Fit-and-Trim Mommy bother me? Why did I care that my pants size was obviously double-digits above hers? “It’s all about being healthy for my family,” I repeated like a mantra until I gained control over my emotions, if not my waistline. Deciding to blame the pants, I took them off and gave them away. That did make me feel a little better.
It’s easy to feel insecure today. Reality TV and celebrity culture bombard us with shiny, touched-up images of what beautiful oily bodies should look like (even if they never do). Social media tempts us to believe highlight reels make up the everyday lives of our neighbors and acquaintances (even if they are personally miserable). Even the Church has fallen victim, lifting up celebrity Christians with picture-perfect lives and adoring multitudes as the epitome of how we show we are blessed.
We can hardly help comparing ourselves. I don’t look like that. My clothes don’t look like hers. My children don’t win awards hers do. My husband doesn’t give me those gifts. My job, my house, my life is nothing in comparison. Then it’s just a hope-skip-and-a-jump to believing I’m so less-than.
So even when we know that “comparing ourselves among ourselves is not wise,” (2 Cor. 10:12), the temptation easily trips us up. And that unhealthy comparison leads to new sins, if we aren’t careful.
Are You Doing These?
I know that I’ve fallen into this comparison trap when I see these particular sins in my life. When I become insecure in who God made me to be, when I forget to honor the image of Him in my life, when I take my eyes off the Creator Who loves me, then I find myself trying to fix things with these bad habits. If you have fallen into them, too, take a look at the cause:
Complaining. When I’m insecure about how I look, I start to complain about my body – first to my own mind, then to my husband or friends. And that’s not the truth. The truth is not that I’m made of flubber and a scale number. The truth is that I’m a strong, capable woman that cares for my children, adores my husband, and praises God.
Binge shopping. When I’m insecure about my fashion choices, I start binge shopping for new looks. This is not only unhelpful to my budget, but also a distraction from what I should be doing with my time. God didn’t call me to look like a walking Pinterest board, He called me to love others sacrificially.
Give up. Feeling insecure is a very good reason to just quit – quit reaching out to others, quit making new friends, quit ministering to the hurting around me. I very well could have quit training for my 5K that evening last summer, agreeing with her obvious assessment that I look nothing like a runner. But I would have lost so much: the memories of running each morning with my son, the lessons God taught me about my spiritual race, the thrill of finishing an event that was months in the making. One uncomfortable stare-down was not worth losing God’s best for me at that time. God called me to keep going.
Criticize others. It’s terrible, but true: when I am insecure in who I am, it’s far too easy to tear down others, to look for their faults, even (gulp) point out their less-than-perfect parts to others. It’s not loving, it’s not pretty, it’s not godly. Loving others as Christ loved me demands I celebrate the best in those around me, instead.
Boast. When I find myself going on and on about that one accomplishment to my husband, when I have to bring up my resume or name drop or brag to make myself heard in the conversation, then I need to stop and check my heart. What am I trying to prove? What insecurities am I trying to hide? Why am I so self-focused when my God is so big and the needs around me are so great?
Do This Instead
It isn’t enough to just stop complaining and shopping and giving up and criticizing and bragging. I need to replace those actions with healthy behaviors that will keep my relationships going in the right direction.
• First of all, I need to reexamine my position in Christ, studying the Scriptures for how God loves me and listing the blessings He bestows on me daily.
• Secondly, I need to embrace the purpose God created me for – my marriage, my children, my work, my ministry, my own friendships!
• Finally, I need to get to work on what God gave me to do. “Do the next thing,” my pastor reminds us when we get discouraged. Throw in that load of laundry, help my child with homework, cook dinner, love my husband.
Insecurity can be quickly replaced with security in Christ’s work in me – once I stop those bad habits and get back to work for Him!
**Want to read Lea Ann’s new book called Rocking Ordinary? Order it on Amazon or write a comment mentioning one area in which you struggle with comparison on Facebook or this blog post before September 15th and one reader will be sent a signed copy of this new book!
LEA ANN GARFIAS believes there is enough coffee in the world to make even dreadful Thursdays tolerable. In her book Rocking Ordinary (New Leaf Press), she helps ordinary moms realize their extraordinary influence. When she’s not homeschooling her four children, cheering at soccer matches, or performing the violin, she’s passed out asleep. You’ll find evidence of her existence at lagarfias.com.