Women are incredible. We are wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, volunteers, employees, business owners, students, friends… just a never-ending list of roles, relationships, and responsibilities. I am constantly amazed at how the women in my life are able to juggle all these and to love on their people at the same time.
The problem is that this can easily morph into pressure. We constantly want to accomplish, to be enough, to be worthy in all these areas of our lives.
This week, I was struck with a point made in the book, “You Are the Girl for the Job” by Jess Connelly. She began a chapter with the sentence, “I’ll never forget the day I decided I wasn’t all that pretty.” She went on to describe her encounter with a woman whose beauty was natural, effortless, and radiant. Meanwhile, Jess was in sweats with messy hair and no makeup. And in that moment she knew that she’d never be as beautiful as this brunette stranger.
My first reaction to this encounter was sympathy. I related so strongly to the feeling of leaving your house only to be greeted by women who seem to have it more “together” than you do, in some way or another. But Jess went another direction. To her, this realization was freeing. She knew she would never win in the race towards effortless, perfect beauty, so she could stop competing!
When I watch sporting events (which, granted, isn’t often), I am happy for the winners. I don’t feel bad about myself because I didn’t win, bring home Olympic gold in figure skating or come in first at the Boston marathon. Because I wasn’t competing. I know I’d never win these competitions so I don’t put myself in the race. There is no pressure, no comparison. Just an appreciation for the talent of another person who has worked hard to achieve their goals.
Like Jess, I will never be the most beautiful woman in the world. Even on days when I feel I look my best, I will never look the best. I will also never be the most perfect mother. I love my kids ferociously but there are times when my patience isn’t what it should be. I will have “off days” at work, school, church, and in every single one of my relationships. I will likely never be “the best” at anything.
But maybe, instead of feeling broken by this, I can be liberated. I can look at these things- beauty, intelligence, accomplishments- through the same lens I view sporting events. I am not completing, so it is A-ok when someone inevitably does better than me at something. Good for her. Let’s applaud her accomplishments, because they do not make me any less valuable.
It says in 1 Corinthians 12 that:
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. – 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
So no, I may not be the best at any one worldly thing. But I can be good at things. I can use my God-given gifts to the best of my ability, and I can work hard to improve the places I fall short. If I fail, I can do better next time. And if not, then maybe the time after that.
When I let go of comparison, when I stop running the race, I am free to be the best me. I can connect with my Lord and through Him I can do big things. I can cheer on my fellow women when they succeed. And, ironically, this makes me better.
This realization was a big one for me, but the implementation will be a journey. I will always feel pressure to do more, to be better. But I’ll tell myself again and again “this is not my race.”