I am constantly comparing myself to others. I compare myself to pioneer women who worked from pre-dawn to post-dusk and feel inadequate in my daily accomplishments. I compare myself to my friends and feel that I am not keeping up. I compare myself to my husband and feel sorry for myself that I don't have the 'freedom' that he appears to have. I compare myself to public-schooling friends and worry that I'm not pushing our children enough academically. All of these comparisons also have pre-conceived notions attached them. Ultimately I am judging others and myself in ways that I have no business doing.
I remember when Spencer was in pre-school a few years ago. I was struggling deeply with anxiety and depression. I would get my son ready for 'school' and watch all of the other moms pull into the parking lot at our church as they brought their children to the preschool. (Our house is on the church property where the pre-school is also located). I thought all of their cars looked so nice and I imagined that they were immaculate on the inside. As the women stepped out of their cars I felt they were all well-dressed - in mom uniform of yoga pants and cute shirt - I allowed myself to believe the lie that I was less than and they were greater than. I felt shrunk inside myself. As I would walk Spencer over to pre-school every stain on my jeans felt magnified, every extra pound I carried on my body felt tripled, my hair became limp, and I felt older than my years. I would even look at my sweet child and see imperfections - mismatched socks, unkempt hair, a torn book bag. I cannot tell you how painful these days were for me. I wanted to turn around, go back home, and climb into bed.
It seems the other women sensed it - they would not speak to me. I was invisible.
No one seemed to remember me from week to week. All of the mothers would congregate outside the classrooms chatting easily about their lives. Except me. I would stand against the wall trying not to cry.
One morning I was running more behind than usual. I rushed to give Spencer a piece of toast and we headed out the door. It is seriously and 2 minute walk to our church. As we trotted over I felt something moving down my pant leg. I took a couple of steps before I realized it was something loose. I stooped and reached into my pant leg thinking I was going to pull out a sock from the day before. No sock there. I pulled out a pair of underwear. UNDERWEAR FROM THE DAY BEFORE! I had pulled on a pair of jeans that were on the floor of my bedroom and never noticed the discarded undies. I started laughing and couldn't stop. I was mortified that someone would have seen but also spectacularly tickled at my faux pas. Spencer was laughing, too, perhaps just from the joy that I was finally laughing after so many days of frowning.
I jogged my unmentionables back home and retraced our steps back to pre-school. I couldn't wipe the smile off of my face. I can't say why that absurdity brought me out of my melancholy but it did. I realized in that comical moment that I am unique. My problems are unique, but so is my sense of humor, and my approach to life, and my parenting, and everything else in my life. That morning the other moms acknowledged me - or did I acknowledge them? All of my ideas about how perfect their lives were was shattered with the realization that we all have something creeping down the proverbial pants-leg. Something we didn't mean to leave there, something that drags us down and makes us feel ashamed. It's when we try to hide within ourselves that destruction sets in. Acknowledging something that causes us pain brings it into the light.
I still watch the pre-school moms coming and going but I no longer compare myself to them. I still struggle with occasional feelings of inadequacy, but mostly I embrace who God is transforming me to be. Everyday I work on looking at myself realistically (Romans 12:3-5) and remembering that in Christ I am not alone.
And I always give extra attention to any person that seems to be on the outside looking in.
Ephesians 1:18 "I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called - his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance."