She wept as her sister celebrated. They had both invested time and intention to improve. And it showed! As I watched them perform during the dance recital, I could not believe that this was only their second year with the dance studio. They had developed into phenomenal dancers in such a short time! During the awards ceremony that followed, her younger sister received a merit award recognizing her hard work and improvement for her age group. While she was happy for her younger sister, the win stung as the merit award for her age group had gone to another dancer. Her sister’s win was like salt in her wound. As she grappled with her emotional whiplash – happy for her sister while upset about her own loss – I contemplated how to navigate simultaneous celebration and sorrow.
I jumped up and down in proud applause for our youngest daughter who received the award. It was wonderful to have her hard work acknowledged before hundreds of dancers and families. Then I stretched open my arms to wrap big sister in empathy and encouragement. She sobbed, sharing how she felt that her little sister was always in the spotlight of accomplishment, praise, recognition, and reward – while she seemed to be standing still in her little sister’s shadow. My heart sank. I could see that while she was disappointed that she did not win the merit award for her age group, the source of her devastation was rooted in comparing herself to her sister.
I know the illusion of comparison all too well. In a world constantly bombarding us with images of success, talent, and achievement, it’s easy to fall into the trap of comparison. I told my daughter about the many times I’ve peered through Instagram’s window at someone else’s life, skills, and accomplishments, measuring myself against them, and inadvertently compromising my own efforts. Comparison diminishes my self-worth, suffocates my dreams, and hinders my progress in fulfilling the purpose for which God has uniquely designed me.
My daughter was shocked to learn that I too have allowed comparison to wound me. She reasoned, “You’ve helped so many people. My friends think you’re awesome. You’ve written books! How can you feel overlooked?”
I asked her if she’d noticed the phrase ‘We are so grateful to have you here’ taped to my mirrors and on the wall in my office. I placed it there to remind me to let appreciation clear the illusion of comparison. Appreciation is powerful! By shifting my perspective towards appreciating my efforts and progress, I counteract the harmful effects of comparison. Appreciation enables me to embrace my uniqueness, celebrate my accomplishments, and foster an attitude of gratitude for myself and the work I get to do.
Appreciating our efforts acknowledges the journey we have embarked upon. Each step forward, no matter how small, is a testament to our determination and resilience. Recognizing the dedication we invest in our pursuits helps build a sense of self-worth and confidence. When we appreciate our efforts, we give ourselves the motivation to keep pushing forward, knowing that progress is being made.
Also, appreciation helps us acknowledge our unique abilities and gifts. Each one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made by God, blessed with distinct talents and skills. When we focus on appreciating our own capabilities, we are reminded that our journey is not a competition against others. Instead, it is a personal quest to fulfill the purpose God has placed within our hearts. By recognizing and nurturing our unique strengths, we can make a positive impact in our sphere of influence.
Finally, appreciation fosters contentment and joy! When we constantly compare ourselves to others, we tend to dwell on what we lack or what we perceive as shortcomings. However, when we appreciate our efforts, we shift our perspective to the progress we have already attained. Contentment brings peace and frees us from the burden of constantly striving to measure up to someone else’s standards.
So, together my daughter and I reflected on our journeys. We considered the progress we’d made, the obstacles we’d overcome, and the unique talents we each possess. We acknowledged what we appreciated about our efforts. While it would be nice to be recognized for our work, being granted an award is certainly not our motivation. We committed to honoring and celebrating our accomplishments instead of overlooking them through the lens of comparison. And we will continue to trust God to guide and equip us as we faithfully pursue the purpose He has for each of us.
Let this encouragement sink in: “Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life” (Galatians 6:4-5).
Heavenly Father, thank You for the unique gifts and abilities You have bestowed upon me. Help me to appreciate the work You have given me and to find joy in the progress I make along the way. Fill my heart with contentment and guide me to use my talents for Your glory. Grant me the strength to resist the temptation of comparison and to focus on fulfilling the purpose You have designed for my life. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.