How do you define success as a mother? Is it the way your kids smell fresh, are perfectly dressed and are perfectly obedient?
How do you define success as a homemaker? Is it the way your house is always clean, your laundry folded and put away, and the floors are swept and spotless?
How do you define success as a wife? Is it how you beautifully and effortlessly work through every conflict with poise and joy? Is it how you are able to communicate and relate to and encourage your spouse? Is it how you can read one another’s minds, speak one another’s love language, and meet one another’s every need or desire?
How do you define success as a Christian? Is it how you can quote 30 verses from memory? Or how you can explain every single point of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology…without notes? Is it that you know every hymn from memory and can sing pitch perfect harmony during worship?
So often there is a standard in my mind to which I feel I need to attain. So often I think the outward actions that I do or don’t do, or that my children do or don’t do, define me. So often I look to what others are doing or how others are operating to get a gauge of what I should be doing or how I should be acting.
I look to the skill sets, talents and beauty of other women and think, “they sure look like they have it all together.” Or, “wow, they sure do that better than me.” I compare and contrast what imperfections I am faced with in myself every day with the beauty and buttoned up images I see in others. Often there is a feeling of being “less than” or “not enough” or that I am a “failure.”
I often struggle as I look through Pinterest articles or Facebook profiles or Instagram accounts. There are people and things I am genuinely interested in, but when I see article after article and photo after photo of others who seem to “get it” more than I do, I often log off feeling like there’s absolutely no way I could measure up or fit in.
Take this blog as a prime example. This little far-off pipe dream of mine has actually become a reality! I love to be a noticer (is that even a real word?!) of life. I love to share stories. I love to encourage others. I love to write. I love to be vulnerable, open and honest. And now there is a venue to do so!
But…when I look to others who have done it longer, who have got it, seemingly, figured out, when I compare how amateur I feel to how professional they look, I quickly forget the parts that I love and become instantly confused, overwhelmed, and burdened. I feel a hurriedness to work on things I know are not great, and feel a pressure to get it done quickly…as in, it should have been done yesterday.
Underneath all of that is a feeling (and fear) that I need to have perfect writing and perfect vocabulary and, God forbid, if I have a typo or use too many dots in my ellipsis, then people won’t want to read what I have to say. There is a constant pressure to perform and it so easily becomes paralyzing.
What I am discovering is that the propensity of my heart goes to those same places in many areas of my life, including my role as a mom. You see, I love to connect with my kids. I love to truly “see” them and relate with them. I love to make a strong effort in keeping up with the house and providing care for all of their needs. I love to teach them, play games with them, and read to them. I truly do find joy in being a mother.
But when I look to others who have done it longer, who have it, seemingly, all together, or have lovelier images of their kids dressed cute, smiling, and all looking at the camera at the same time, it is easy for me to become confused, overwhelmed and burdened. I compare myself to other moms and contrast what I know is imperfect about me with what appears to be perfect in them. I allow my heart to move to a place of feeling “less than” or “not enough” and I feel a hurriedness to get it all together fast and a pressure to perform and get “there.”
But where is “there”?!
It is always tempting to define success as something we achieve or a place we arrive, but what do we do when we feel like we never achieve or never arrive?
Pinterest is not evil. Other moms with beautiful photos and lovely children are not evil. Teaching our children to obey, or wearing a fancy dress, or fixing our hair with a blowdryer is not evil. Learning our husband’s love language or making an all-organic meal that every single member of our family enjoys is not evil. In fact, those things are lovely. I don’t need to make myself stop looking at those other moms, or delete my Pinterest account, or eat only non-organic foods, or wear all worn out clothing to avoid comparing myself to other women.
It is my own heart that is the problem.
Those images are some of the most vivid expressions of God-given talents in women that I’ve ever encountered. To see how another women will find one thing easy that another would find incredibly challenging is a strong confirmation that we are not all the same! There’s so much beauty and uniqueness in those differences. There is so much that I could be learning from other women if I would stop comparing myself long enough to learn from them.
Does it mean that because one woman is amazing at organizing her closet that I should feel inferior or “less than?” By no means. If she has been given that wisdom and has found a creative way to share that wisdom with someone like me who is not-so-gifted-in-having-an-organized-closet, then I can choose to be thankful for her shared advice and use that to help me increase my knowledge in that area.
There is a quote I’ve seen floating around on Instagram lately that reads, “Girls Tear One Another Down, Women Build One Another Up.” Now we all know that there are plenty of women that love to tear others down, yet so often it isn’t even other women that are doing the tearing down.
I am the one that lets my thoughts run rampant imagining what others might be thinking. I am the one that becomes frozen in despair when I tell myself I don’t measure up. I am the one that views those images only to log off feeling “less-than” and discouraged and “not enough.”
Instead of getting caught up in doing everything I can to reach a non-existent level of perfection, I need to instead ask some questions. “How can I grow today?” “What it is that I need to spend time on today?” “Who is it that needs me today?” “What is one small thing that I can be working toward right now?”
But it’s bigger than just changing my thoughts or focusing on something else. If my focus and aim is toward perfection, I will feel paralyzed, confused, and exhausted because it is a betrayal of my soul’s deepest longing. The only perfect one that has ever lived is Jesus. It is only in Him that my heart will find satisfaction. It is not in the comparing, it is not in the perfection, it is not in the images, it is not in the standard.
Jesus says, there IS a standard and we DON’T measure up. Not me, not you, not anyone. No matter how many bows we put on it, we’ve already missed the mark.
Every. Single. One. Of. Us.
good GREAT news is this: Jesus, the God-Man, came to give us HIS righteousness. He lived the life we were supposed to live and died the death we were supposed to die. He joyfully, gladly and painfully took upon Himself our filth, our failures, our shame and then gave us His cleanness, His success, and His perfection.
And it is in His love, dear friend, that you and I both can truly rest.
Photo Credit: Latisha Carlson www.mattandtish.com