A few months ago, I decided to get up really early to go read at one of my favorite local coffee shops. I ordered an almond milk latte, found a perfect spot by the window, and opened up my book.
Usually, nothing can break me out of the spell I fall into when I read. But, this time was different. I suddenly became aware of the conversation next to me.
“I just want my body back. I mean, I don’t know how she’s stayed so thin since high school. Part of me hates her for it, then the other part of me just wants to look like her. I know I shouldn’t compare myself, but it’s just how I feel.”
My heart sank. Not because I thought this woman speaking was pitiful or pathetic, but, because I’ve been that woman. More times than I can count, I’ve caught myself wishing I could make parts of other people’s lives my own.
The Consequences of Comparison
When I first arrived at the coffee shop and was getting settled, I glanced around the room, and my eyes caught the stunning blue dress that this woman was wearing. She also had a beautiful smile and a way about her that was intriguing.
After overhearing the conversation, I got up to refill my coffee, and I noticed a change in the woman’s demeanor. Her once upright posture was now curved. Her radiant smile was concealed with a frown. With just a glance, I saw how she lost the sense of confidence that she had before. She had become so focused on what she felt like she didn’t have that it minimized her beautiful qualities.
Obviously, I couldn’t go over to this woman and fix her life and tell her how many wonderful characteristics she had that she wasn’t seeing. But, I could restore my own life and the fact that I, too, was caught up in the same cycle of comparison.
The Graduation Party
A few weeks after my trip to the coffee shop, I was driving myself to a graduation party. I had been looking forward to the party all week – I love any opportunity to see friends and family. But, as I was driving there, I felt myself falling into a fit of comparison.
Before I go on, it’s necessary for me to point out that I’ve had many awkward moments in my life. For some reason, before any kind of social event, all of these uncomfortable scenes replay in my head, and I fear that each one is just waiting to make a reappearance the next time I interact with someone. As a result, I feel myself wishing that I was a less awkward and more put together.
I think about my unfairly witty cousin who can work a room like nobody’s business. Then there’s me and my many attempts to crack jokes that just don’t make sense. I also think about my wonderfully kind and graceful best friend, who seems to have never had an awkward moment in her life. Then there’s me and all of the times I’ve eagerly hugged someone who just wanted a handshake.
Typically, I engage in this pattern of stressing and comparing and arrive at a social event feeling deflated and self-conscious.
But, something in me shifted right before this graduation party.
As I was pulling up to my destination, I remembered the woman in the blue dress. I thought about the words she spoke, and how comparing herself diminished her light that was once so radiant.
I thought to myself, “Am I also letting my light be destroyed by comparison?”
Discovering the Sparkle
I sat in my car for a few minutes and began to ponder this idea that each of us has our own “sparkle.” It’s a fantastic combination of the wonderfully unique qualities that make us exactly who we are. But, here’s the catch: this sparkle is non-transferrable. Nobody can steal it, and you can’t take anyone else’s. In order for your sparkle to burn bright and captivate people with its beauty, you have to embrace it, nurture it, and let it shine brightly.
I realized that if I continued to spend so much of my time and energy staring at someone else’s light and wishing that I could have it for myself, my own sparkle would lose its vibrancy.
Run Your Own Race
My middle school track coach used to say, “Don’t worry about what the runners next to you are doing. Run your own race.” I remember being in the middle of a race, and whenever I would become curious about how the person next to or behind me was doing, I’d lose focus and end up slowing down.
The same applies to other parts of our lives. If we let ourselves get distracted by what the people around us are doing, we will lose focus of our own individual purpose.
Get Your Confidence Back
My friend, as you go throughout your day, remember that you were fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). Stop distracting yourself. Breakfree from comparison and get back on the path that God created for you. You have a remarkable sparkle that no other human on this earth can possess. The world desperately needs it, and you are the only one who can let it shine.