I noticed her immediately when she walked into the gas station. I was in line to buy a bottle of water before dance class when she came through the doors and headed straight for the display of donuts. I was startled when I realized that from the moment she arrived, I had dove head first into the comparison trap. I was lost in thought about how pretty she was. I was proud of her for looking so great despite her donut encounters. I realized that I had felt suddenly insecure about the leggings I was wearing and wished I had chosen to wear a sweater that covered my booty. I noticed she had fantastic hair and was wearing a really cute outfit that I seriously doubted I could pull off. And just as quickly as I realized my mind was thinking these thoughts, I started to feel guilty for having them. I mean, am I not past this way of thinking? I run an organization whose sole purpose is to help young women live lives free from the bonds of insecurity and to rest in the identity of Christ. So what’s the deal with my sudden bout of raging self-doubt and comparison?
“Hi, You have amazing legs!”
I was shocked when I turned around to see her pretty little face staring at me. I did not mean to be rude with my lack of immediate response.
“You look so toned. I have always wanted legs like that. Are you a dancer?”
We chatted briefly about how much her compliment meant to me given that I was feeling insecure in my leggings. She reassured me that I looked fine and went on to explain how she has always been jealous of the toned legs of a dancer.
And that was it.. I paid for my water and walked out to my car pausing slightly before opening the door. I could not hide the smirk on my face. Not because I had received a compliment that fed my ego, but because in one tiny encounter, I was reminded of a few powerful things:
Purpose Always Beats Perfection
In this one tiny encounter I had two options: Focus on my imperfections, or execute my purpose. Unfortunately, in this moment I chose the imperfections but was so graciously reminded of my purpose after the fact. Oddly enough, sometimes executing our purpose happens in spite of our imperfections. I used to be held captive by insecurity, seeing only what others had that I did not. The girl at the gas station reminded me that I will not always get it right, but that I have grown so much! When it really comes down to it, I always want to choose to build healthy relationships and speak life to the people around me rather than foster a culture of comparison and insecurity. I want to be focused on purpose rather than perfection.
The comparison Game Is Dumb
It turns out that we are all insecure and have the ability to pick out the strengths of others in about half the time it takes us to determine one of our own strengths. While I was comparing her strengths to my perceived weaknesses, she was comparing her perceived weaknesses to my perceived strengths. Do you see the irony here? The verse that comes to mind at this moment is Proverbs 14:30 “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.”
Envy seems so innocent at times, but if left unchecked it is destructive and can literally paralyze our ability to walk toward a purpose. Think about it this way, how can we even walk in a straight line towards a goal if we are constantly looking left and looking right at what everyone else is doing? It is impossible. If we allow envy to be the first response, then we operate in a way where we are starving for instant and shallow affirmation, love, and compliments. Not only that but when we are consumed with envy, our hearts are not at peace and we cannot be individuals overflowing with encouragement and servant-hearted love for others.
I wish I Would Have Learned Her Name
It may seem a bit extreme but I honestly, if given an opportunity to meet this girl again, I would aim to learn about her life, her family, her fears. God knows there’s more to both of us than wishing we had tighter legs. I am reminded that I always want to be searching for substance in people and looking for ways to love them better. Although I am not perfect, I never want to waste another 30-second random meeting with such a lovely girl talking only about how the other one got such toned thighs. The bottom line is that we are continuously practicing behaviors and the ones we practice most are the ones that will prevail and become instinctual. One of the practices I have treasured this past year is building deep relationships founded on vulnerability. Unfortunately, in this particular instance, I settled for a walk in the shallow end rather than setting a foundation for a relationship that would last beyond those gas station doors.