If there's one thing that this pregnancy has taught me, it's that I have a terrible habit of comparing myself to others. As my body grows bigger, so does my human nature need for affirmation. With the weekly updates and clickable hashtags, I consistently and begrudgingly find myself comparing my size and lifestyle against women all over the world. And guess what? It never makes me feel good.
I'm quickly recognizing that most everyone struggles with this–whether they realize it as an issue or not.
We compare our lives, our looks, and our abilities multiple times every single day. We are constantly checking how we measure up to those around us–and I would venture to say that it affects us much more than we realize.
I would also venture to say that women, especially, struggle in this area. There is so much pressure (much of it self-imposed) to look better, do better, and be better than our fellow females. Our comparisons are constant, internalized, and shape how we view ourselves and others. We are harshly critical of others, but most of all ourselves.
I cannot tell you how many absolutely beautiful women I have heard bash themselves and point out their own (often imagined) flaws–we do this in such a nonchalant, normalized way that you would think its no big deal...but it is. It's a really big deal.
It's also a really big deal when we puff ourselves up because we've won a portion of the "comparison game." We're fueling destructive pride and bringing down everyone in our path towards this superficial self-esteem bump.
Unfortunately, it is no easy task to just stop these comparisons. It's been engrained in the majority of us to recognize our flaws and devote our lives to attending to them–we try to fix them, we focus on them, and we look for them in other people.
However, I've found that to study God's truths on this and work hard to recognize and live under my identity as His perfect creation–while also recognizing that identity in others–proves to be extremely helpful.
"Women are so unforgiving of themselves. We don't recognize our own beauty because we're too busy comparing ourselves to other people. One of the easiest ways to feel bad about oneself is to compare yourself unfavorably to others." - Psychology Today Magazine
As I study up on this issue, I am realizing (by the grace of God) that comparison can lead to only one of two things: self deprecation or pride.
Comparing myself to others not only damages my self esteem–it is sinful–because I am not valuing others as God does. Even if I never say anything or do anything to acknowledge these silent comparisons, I am having an attitude of disdain that devalues precious daughters of God.
"Even in your thoughts, do not curse (each other), nor in your bedroom curse (each other)." – Ecclesiastes 10:20
Further, I am devaluing myself, an image-bearer of God (Genesis 1:27), fearfully and wonderfully made (Proverbs 139:14)! We each carry a unique piece of God's character and a responsibility to share that uniqueness with the world in order to create a clearer picture of the God who loves us. We can't do that well if we are constantly looking around us for affirmation through comparison.
As I spend more and more time thinking about what it will be like to raise a daughter, I become more and more convicted of my own self-image sins. I want my daughter to know that she is perfect in every way because she was made on purpose and for a purpose by a God who makes no mistakes.
It breaks my heart to imagine my sweet little girl staring at her reflection in the mirror someday with thoughts of how she compares to her peers. Whether she "wins" these comparisons (is her hair softer and more beautiful than her best friend's?) or "loses" (is her tummy a little squishier than that girl down the street?)–these thoughts will undoubtedly damage her and lead her to sin.
Like it or not, little girls look to their mothers for direction in most things; self-image included. I don't ever want my daughter to hear me bash myself or bash others. I want her to see a woman who fears the Lord and carries the unique beauty that the Lord gave her, while building up the unique beauty in others.
"Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children." –Lamentations 2:19
We all need to submit ourselves to transformation in order to realign ourselves with the image and the purpose that God intended for us. We are beautiful, wonderful, and passionately loved no matter how the women (or men) around us look. And further, those around us are also beautiful, wonderful, and passionately loved. Comparison gets us nowhere.
I pray that you will join me and spend some time this week evaluating your thought-life and recognizing your sins of pride or self-deprecation. Submit them to God and let him show you who you are truly made to be.
By Kayla Colvin
Originally published in Be Still Magazine, issue 2.