Confession: I have a terrible tendency to compare myself with others. Never has this worked in my favor or made me a better person...yet I seem to continue to do it.
If you ask me what I watch on TV, you will get answers that include shows that fall in a few categories: crime dramas (such as Criminal Minds, Law and Order, etc.), crime documentaries (anything on Investigate Discovery), legal and political dramas (Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder), reality shows (but only Dancing with the Stars and The Voice…because, well, Adam Levine), Saints football, and cooking shows (any and all, but especially competitions). After reading that list, it’s a bit of wonder I’m sane and not twisted and demented with all of the crime shows I watch! No comments from the peanut gallery, please! Lately, one of my favorite shows is a baking competition aired on PBS. It’s called The Great British Bake Off and is set in England, hence the title! The techniques and flavors used in Europe are so different than what we use here and they absolutely fascinate me!
Let me quickly set up for you how the competition works. Each week there is a certain theme and there are three rounds per episode. The first round is the signature bake challenge, second is the technical challenge, and the third round is the showstopper. The contestants know what will be asked of them in the first and third rounds and have time to practice between episodes. It is the technical challenge that is the most interesting one to me…and also the one where I recently learned quite a lesson.
For the technical challenge, the bakers are given the challenge of creating a recipe belonging to one of the judges. As the name implies, they are judged on the technical components of what they bake. However, the recipe they are given is usually one that is somewhat unfamiliar to the contestants and eliminates some key details such as certain specific techniques or baking times. Recently, the technical challenge was to bake a custard pie. The ingredients for the custard were given but nothing more. There’s a part of this segment as they are preparing this custard where only one contestant is cooking her custard. As she is looking around at the others simply mixing the ingredients, they are looking at her cooking her ingredients. In the background is commentary of the contestants questioning their own techniques compared to hers. They question why she does that and come to the conclusion that she must be wrong as she is the only one using that technique! There is also commentary of her questioning herself, as well. Would you like to guess who wins that challenge? You got it, the one who cooked her custard even when no one else did! Each of them seemed a bit surprised!
Comparing ourselves to others is a pretty common issue among people. It is definitely an issue I constantly battle. I compare my abilities, my appearance, my body, my experiences, my opinions, my spiritual growth…and the list could go on. I have learned a few things in this struggle.
- Comparing myself to others prevents me from seeing who I truly am. Using others as a mirror is not what God intended. He has uniquely and individually created each of us. He has also set a particular path and plan in motion for each of us. If I seek to align my life with someone I deem better than myself, I risk not being the very person God created and desired me to be. I also run the risk of missing opportunities to display His creative glory as I strive to be someone other than myself.
- Comparing myself to others often leaves me wanting. Every day I encounter women who I believe are prettier than I am. I see women who are thinner than I will ever be; women with bodies that I will never attain short of a body transplant. There are people with better houses, cars, and wardrobes than I have. There are people with stronger skills, abilities, talents, personalities, and countless other things that I may feel I fall short of. These thoughts do nothing but leave me wanting rather than appreciating. I see how I don’t measure up rather than how I have been blessed.
- Comparing myself to others could also leave me with a false sense of pride. Comparisons also lead me to believe I may be better than someone else. When I focus my eyes on what I have or who I am and allow that to become a source of pride, I miss the needs of those around me. I miss opportunities to share what I have been given and who I am with the world around me…which means I also miss opportunities to share the very place my value does come from, God.
- Comparing myself to others steals my joy and contentment. Rather than finding my value in the Giver of all I am and the Creator of my body and life, comparison leads me to place my value in the gifts He has given me and to be paralyzed by the things I see as lacking. Whether comparison makes me feel better or worse about myself, it eliminates God. When I eliminate God from my thinking, I eliminate my source of joy and contentment.
At the end of the day, God has made me, scars, dimples, saggies, quirks, and all, intentionally. He has done so for my good and His glory. I must daily choose to keep my gaze upward and not circular. I must focus on Him and not others. Though it doesn’t change the things I would like to change, focus changes my perspective. And changing my perspective often changes everything.