Comparison: A Recipe for Unrest

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There are days when I feel so joyful and proud of the job I’ve been doing, with God’s help, as a mom….

And then there are days when I stumble across an impressive video on social media of young elementary school aged prodigies playing violins and woodwind instruments like miniature professional musicians and begin second guessing myself on how well I’m doing compared to these children’s moms.

Oh… Days before this, I was so proud of the fact that I had taken my son for a fun time of play at a local bounce house, that we had enjoyed a great time together on the playground, that he had helped me make muffins one afternoon, and that he had even helped me make a veggie-fruit “juice” one morning…

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But now….?

No.

Instead of celebrating all we have been able to do together, I begin doubting myself and the job I’m doing as a mom…

And all this because I set my eyes on someone else’s level of parenting.

So now in this moment I allow myself to believe that who I am and what I’ve been doing as a mom just simply isn’t “good enough” compared to these other parents…

(Okay…So, my little guy’s only two and a half, but still…. You know where I’m coming from.)

Whether it’s things like these that drive you to comparison or not, I’m almost 100% sure there are things in your life that have a way of pushing your own comparison buttons as well.

And it can happen across so many spectrums… Not just in mothering.

For example… Have you ever found yourself so joyful in one moment- content with your possessions, your home, and your way of life….

And then your joy suddenly comes to an abrupt halt after visiting the newest community of model homes?

You return to your own home later that afternoon wondering, “How long were we planning on living in this house, again?”

Oh, if only things were bigger…more elaborate, more spacious, and new… Right?  (Hmmm….)

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Joy goes out the window along with contentment as we allow comparison and discontent to set in.

On another specturm, perhaps you’re a working mom. You feel proud of all you’ve accomplished and are doing to help your family make ends meet. God gave you a great job, and things are going well. You’re able to contribute to the family’s needs and help put food on the table.

But… Any time you scroll through social media and see your stay-at-home mommy friend, you find yourself comparing yourself to her, feeling as though your life should in some way mirror hers. “Maybe I’m not doing that good of a job as a mom…compared to her,” you think to yourself.

Oh, how comparison beats us down.

Or put the shoe on the other foot. Perhaps you’re the stay-at-home mom, viewing the working mom and her family. You see all that she’s accomplished outside of the home, all her family can afford, and all of the places they can go because both parents are working.

So you also begin to doubt yourself, wondering whether you’re doing a “good enough” job staying home with your children and daily managing the chores in your home. Am I as successful as  her?

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Yes, you often feel fulfilled in your role as a stay-at-home mom, but  every so often when you catch a glimpse of the grass “on the other side”, comparing what she’s accomplished in the workplace  or what she is able to afford compared to you and your family, those “happy and contented feelings” begin to evade you.

Comparison will always leave you feeling “down” and “discontent” or “less than”.

I could go on and on…

Moms of public school children doubting themselves as they compare themselves to homeschooling moms…

Moms who wish to lose a few pounds comparing themselves to women who are more fit…

The opportunities for comparison are endless…

And yet, this was never the kind of life God intended for us to have as moms- always looking at some other woman as the standard and either seeing how little we measured up or defending ourselves to prove we were “enough” or “better” in some way compared to “her”.

No, my Friends. Comparison is the enemy of contentment, peace, and rest.

And if you want to know the truth… God wants you to stop comparing yourself to others.

A great Bible verse that reminds us of this fact is 2 Corinthians 10:12 which states, “We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.”

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Comparison is a losing battle.

It will either cause you to lose heart or feel “beneath” someone else, or it will cause you to feel prideful and “better” than someone else.

Comparison does not in any way foster comradery but competition. (And unless you are looking to win a legitimate prize, it would be best to avoid it at all costs.)

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe it is important to learn from those we admire and desire to emulate. I’m not suggesting we plateau and fail to make efforts for improvement or positive change. We most certainly should work towards goals in our lives that will help us, our children, and our families find success.

However, the important thing to remember is that comparison should never be the driving force.

Instead, when desiring success and positive change, we should be willing to ask God for the wisdom and help to accomplish and be everything He intended and planned for us to do and be in this life. 

What if my son was never intended to be a professional instrumentalist like the children in the video? What if he was meant to be a professional tennis player? A coach? A businessman? Or a pastor?

If my eyes are on someone else’s parenting, I may end up steering my son in the wrong direction.

But if my eyes are on the One who created me, my husband, and my son…

The One who has the best in store for us and who knows the best ways to help us reach the goals He has in store for us…

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Then I can rest in the assurance that He will give us the wisdom and direction we need in life…and as parents. And I wil also be able to live in confidence knowing He will direct us to those instrumental individuals that can come along side to offer the wise counsel and advice that will help us in our journey.

This is the kind of life, I’d rather live…

My eyes confidently looking to the  One who holds my future rather than comparing myself to others who are also learning and still growing in their journey through this life as well.

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Tactics to Thwart the Cheerleader in Us All

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Insecurity, comparison, jealousy, pride, gossip, judgement…

Oh….It’s an ugly band of bullies, each one with its own strategy to keep us locked away in our own little boxes… away from genunine friendship and true confidence.

We were created by God for relationship. And aside from the most important relationships we have as women- with God, our husband, our children, and our families…

We also desperately need good friends in our lives who will be there to pray for us, to give us good advice, a kind word, a listening ear, someone to identify with, and a cheerleader to encourage us along life’s journey.

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But have you ever stopped and wondered why it is that women seem to have so much conflict with each other? (Okay, well… Maybe you’re not one of these women… But just think about women in general and how they can respond to each other at times.)

Unfortunately, we all have the ability at one time or another to allow ourselves to be badgered by insecurity, comparison, jealousy, pride, gossip, and judgement when it comes to others.

But if you really stop and think about it…Perhaps, it’s for the very reasons listed above- showing how beautifully good relationships can affect our lives- that this happens…

Yes, insecurity, comparison, jealousy, pride, gossip, judgement are tactics from the devil to thwart the good that God wants to give us through relationships with others.

Yes, friends, healthy relationships with others- if left without threat- could actually help us become stronger and more encouraged in our roles as wives, mothers, and followers of Jesus.

And while those feelings may not always be visible above the surface in our words or actions, they can be seen in more subtle ways in our lives via our thoughts and attitudes.

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For example, when we see someone else who looks the way we wished we looked, achieves something we wished we could, or acquires something we wished we had- although we may not say anything outright against her- have you ever found yourself either feeling badly about yourself or maybe envious of her?

I know I have. (Gasp!!!)

I know…Shocking, isn’t it? Lol. But, rest easy… God’s working on me, and He’s helping  me to learn more and more how to line up my heart and feelings with His…one reason why I’m writing this post.

You see, something I’m learning is that, instead of allowing those ugly feelings to go unchecked, God wants my heart to be filled with His love towards others.

He wants me to reflect who He is to those around me. That’s what a “Christ-ian” is afterall, isn’t it? A follower of Christ!

So it just makes sense that our heart and our thoughts towards each other should ilne up with His, right?

tactics to thwart the cheerleader

I think the following Bible verse sums this up pretty well…

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:”                       Philippians 2:5 NIV

Would Jesus be jealous of someone else’s success? Resentful? Absolutely NOT! And that’s how we are supposed to be as well, if we truly belong to Him and wear His name.

No, it’s just not “okay” to allow those ugly feelings to remain and fester in our hearts. Rather, they must be brought back to God in repentance, and we need to ask His help to move forward with the right kinds of attitudes that He wants us to have.

God created each of us and loves us all so much, and what He wants is for us to be a blessing, support, and cheerleader for others… to be a tangible demonstration of His love in the world.

And when we choose to follow His heart and have His mindset… not only are we doing others good, but we’re doing ourselves a whole lot of good as well….

…Because instead of beating ourselves up for not being where others have arrived, allowing seeds of resentment to grow, or allowing a sour attitude to ruin us on the inside, we’re instead choosing to focus on someone else’s good and trusting God to make all things beautiful in our very own lives as well in His perfect timing. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

Just think about it. What if we lived in a world where we didn’t envy each other?

A world where we didn’t feel as if we were “less than” everytime we saw someone who had a little more sparkle than us?

Or, on the other hand, what if we didn’t look down on others who maybe didn’t have as much as we do?

In that kind of world, we would all be there for each other. We would all be cheerleaders on the bleachers of life spurring each other on rather than jeering because we found some flaw or were resentful of the other’s success.

The Bible sums this idea up well when it tells us:

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4 ESV

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That’s the kind of world God wants us to live in…And those are the kind of women He wants us to be…

Not selfish or self-seeking, but expressions of God’s love, grace, and encouragement toward each other.

Which is why we should continue to pray to our Father in Heaven, “May YOUR kingdom come. May YOUR will be done…On Earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)

Life should never be about any of us building a kingdom for ourselves, where we become the focus.

Our lives and any successes we have should be pointing everyone to the One Who loves us all more than anyone ever could, Who gave us more than anyone ever could, and Who can do above and beyond what we could ever ask or think in EVERY life that is yielded to Him. (Ephesians 3:20)

So, Sisters! Let’s pick up our pompoms and totally disarm the devil of those tactics in our lives with God’s power, His love, and His Word.

We’re not in a competition against each other.

We were meant to be each other’s cheerleaders in life…women of impact and influence for the glory of God and the good of each other.

So, let’s cheer loud and strong, not allowing one negative feeling from the band of bullies to have any place in our lives.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15 ESV

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”                         1 Thessalonians 5:11 ESV

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25 ESV

 

When a Mama’s Bootstraps Can’t Help Her Stand

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Pick yourself up by your own bootstraps? Is that even scientifically possible?

Ok, so I really do understand the gist of what is meant by the familiar phrase. Usually it’s referring to someone working really hard to get somewhere in life… They were in a place where things were tough, and with determination and a lot of effort, they pulled themselves up and had a breakthrough.

Yes, I do understand… We all need to put forth the effort, with God’s help, to get out of hard times, financial slumps,  or whatever challenges we’re facing, and purpose within ourselves that we’re going to reach our goals and achieve our dreams…Nothing will stand in our way.

However, what happens when you find yourself in an “emotional” slump, and it seems that no amount of self-effort can help you boost your mood? Um…Let’s say your “arms” just don’t have the energy to pull on the bootstraps.

Perhaps, you’ve received some startling or disappointing news that knocked you over… Maybe you’re missing someone you had in your life, and you just find it hard to smile because of the pain from their loss.

Or perhaps it’s something else.

Maybe you’re still in the process of striving to attain a goal that just seems to be taking forever to reach… Or maybe on a day like today, your eyes fall on what you lack rather than what you have.

Whatever the case, it’s times like these that you simply find it difficult to pull yourself up by your own efforts. You just don’t have the energy or the desire to switch gears and sing a happy tune.

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The “bootstraps” just aren’t working on a day like this…And so you think. Ok, I’ll just go to bed and wake up tomorrow with a new attitude.

Sleep will be my “refresh” button and everything will be different in the morning.

But…when morning comes and as the new day progresses, you find much hasn’t changed. Your mind wanders back to those same concerns and the pep just isn’t in your step the way it normally is.

What is a woman to do?

Well, dear ladies, I was there the other day. And it just seemed for some odd reason that, although I have everything in the world to be thankful for- I have God, my health, a wonderful husband, a beautiful family, a nice home, food, clothes, etc- I just flat out lost my joy.

And when you lose your joy…you lose your momentum.

I hate feeling that way. That’s just not how I like to be.

I’m the kind of person who loves having a smile and something good to say. I don’t like feeling “bummed”…and what’s more… for no good reason at all.

And to be perfectly honest, I really didn’t have the “want to” to pick myself up.

It started pretty much on Thursday afternoon and went on into the next day. It was a feeling I didn’t like. And I definitely needed a boost…But it wasn’t going to come from me pulling on my own bootstraps.

So, I decided to ask God for help. I didn’t know how long it would take before my feelings changed, but shortly after as I sat on the floor with my toddler who was playing with Playdoh, God gave me the answer. And it was simple: Put on one of my favorite songs by Jesus Culture called “In the River”. And so, I did…

And you know what… Shortly into the song, my mood began to change. Although I wasn’t actually singing along, it was like the atmosphere of worship and praise hit the refresh button on my spirit, returning my joy and my thankfulness.

And I’m not making this up…Trust me, I’m the last person that really likes sharing about when my mood isn’t the perkiest. I like to always be full of joy and love… Let’s just say, I prefer to share my “happier” days with others rather than these kinds…

And yet, at the same time, I thought it was equally important to share this kind too… because I know I’m not the only one who experiences days like this from time to time.

The wonderful sense of joy and renewal returning was just too good not to share.

Yes, it’s true… “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4 Hence, why I’m sharing.

Yes, friends, God inhabits our praise. (Psalm 22:3) And Jesus gives us “a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.” Isaiah 61:3

As followers of Jesus, I’m here to testify that we don’t have to wallow in those yucky feelings that try to steal our joy and our momentum in life. We can simply turn to our loving Heavenly Father for the help and strength we need and allow Him to give us the strategy that will shift our atmosphere and return us to a spirit of praise and joy.

Trust me, I know. And it was such a tremendous feeling of relief in having my joy return that day that I thought it was worthy of writing about this week.

So, the next time, you feel in a funky mood…Just remember.. God’s got your answer. And it can all change in a moment.

 

Am I Beautiful?

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Ok, tell me I’m wrong… But do you ever feel as a woman like there’s just something more you need to be or have different in your life before you can officially say you “feel” beautiful?

Oh…. Maybe it’s your hair, your skin’s condition, your weight, your teeth, your nose…

…Achievements you want to attain…

…Your personality that you’d love to change…

Perhaps you want to be more outgoing or, on the other hand, more refined…

Regardless of what it is, though…

There’s just that one other thing you need in your life that will finally give you permission to check off that last little box on your mental “I-finally-feel-beautiful” checklist.

Oh, trust me, I have my little boxes as well.

And while I am working on those areas, and honestly believe we all should work on being the best version of ourselves we can be…

Somehow I’m absolutely convinced that checking that last little box off isn’t going to be what ultimately convinces me.

You want to know how I know…?

…Because I’ve checked off that box once before… and for some odd reason… I still didn’t feel as though it was good enough to be checked.

Furthermore…even though I checked off that last little box, another box appeared for something else making me still feel inferior.

Yes, we all should have goals in life.

We all should do the things possible to make ourselves feel outwardly beautiful. There are definitely things we can all do to improve ourselves, and we should do our best to work on them. Goals are definitely important to our overall feelings of well-being.

But one thing that saddens me is that many women simply cannot give themselves permission to feel beautiful until they’ve reached the end of their goal….

And yet at the same time, I think somewhere deep inside we all long to feel beautiful and have someone to tell us we are… before we can be “fully” convinced for ourselves.

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In some sense I think that’s one reason why “selfies” have become such a popular phenomenon these days. (…And, no, I don’t claim to be an expert in “selfie” psychology.)

But somehow as I see multiple selfies within a short period of time, something inside of me says, “Women want to know they’re beautiful. They want confirmation that what they see in the mirror really is true and visible to others.”

They simply want affirmation.

How do I know this?

Um…Because just a few years ago that  was me too.

Don’t get me wrong. I do take selfies every now and then (many of which never get seen), but I definitely have stopped posting them as frequently.

Why?

Well, for a few reasons…

For one, God helped me understand the deeper reason “why” I was needing to share my selfies so much.

He began to heal my heart of my need to “request” that affirmation from others.

And more importantly, He also began to show me that my purpose in life is not to highlight myself but Him.

Have I arrived at a place where I can officially say I don’t ever desire that affirmation from outside sources?

Well….. Unfortunately, I have not. I’m still a work in progress. But, trust me, God’s working on me….

Of course there are definitely still days when I want someone to tell me I’m beautiful because (even though I may think so at times myself) I think it’s still in us to just want that extra affirmation from the outside. Who doesn’t want to feel good about themselves and get confirmation about it, right?

But you know what…?

Even that affirmation is never enough. We all still end up needing more………..the next day, the next week, and on and on it goes.

Why is it that the compliments just don’t stick or keep us in a place where we remain fully convinced that we are?

Maybe, it’s because our definition of beauty is flawed…

If you want to know the real scoop about beauty…..

Outward beauty is temporary… Look at the godly great grandmother in her 80’s who’s lived a full life but now looks nothing like her younger self. But here she is… smiling in her hospital bed surrounded by three generations of family members. They treasure her dearly for the joy she’s been in life and will always be grateful for the godly legacy she’s leaving behind.

Beauty isn’t the mark of our value… Look at the military servicemen and women whose faces are almost unrecognizable after surviving a hit by explosives. They risk their own lives to preserve our freedom and safety….and return to short-lived recognition followed by lifelong injuries and scars.

Beauty is “vain”… A focus on beauty so often makes life all about “us”. And thank God our eyes are situated inside of our sculls rather than outside our heads because, in this day and age- if it were the other way around- I’m sure many of us would stare at ourselves all day to see how good we looked.

But most importantly… Something beauty was never meant to be… is the main focus of our lives or the measure of our success in life.

It was never meant to define us, to show us who we are as women, or to show us how much we are worth.

It was never meant to be the deciding factor as to whether we were worth being loved or not.

It was never meant for any of that.

And ultimately… Beauty fades…

But you know what… Beauty can be a really AWESOME word when redefined.

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And if it’s true that “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, God’s eyes have a really awesome perspective of what true beauty really is…. And it’s not limited by our weight, the straightness of our teeth or whether we’re having a good or bad hair day… Not any of that.

According to God, true beauty springs out of who we are on the inside… This is what truly gives us permission to feel beautiful…

And, you know… Another cool thing…. Is that the beauty of those inner qualities never fades like outward “beauty” so often does.

Our Heavenly Father’s definition of beauty is not limited by the numbers on the scale, how we look in the mirror, or how others have treated us.

…Because true beauty is not determined by those surface standards but by a different and more purposeful set of qualities.

“Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates.”                                         Proverbs 31:30-31 NASB

“You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” 1 Peter 3:4 NLT

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NASB

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