Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dare to NOT Compare

My body has always been what I like to call curvaceous. My husband tells me he loves my curves. That is wonderful, because sometimes I do not. After giving birth to my first daughter, I weighed over 200 pounds. My self-loathing, like my weight, was at an all-time high and I knew I could not be the healthy, confident mother I wanted to be unless I changed. I dieted and exercised and lost 60 pounds! Then I got pregnant with my second daughter. The weight came on fast and after nine months, I was breaking the scale once again. I trained for two triathlons, ran a half marathon, and ate every salad like it was my last meal on earth. I still had a little muffin top, but I was strong and healthy. Now I am pregnant with my third baby. Guess what? The weight is coming back on. It may have something to do with cravings for ice cream at 11 p.m., but who knows?

The other day, my neighbor came to the door. She must be a size 2. She wore skinny jeans with a belt cinched over a stylish cardigan, which accented her tiny waist. I stood there looking frumpy in my dirty sweats with a messy ponytail, a common outfit for a mother who chases down toddlers all day. I smiled and chatted, but after she left I did what any other self-assured woman would do: I walked into the pantry and downed six Oreos with a glass of milk. Maybe it is the pregnancy hormones, but I doubt it.

Comparing is a dangerous game. To take pride in being “better” at something than someone else is to fall victim to vanity. Vanity is a bad word, right up there with pride. Yet to focus on our weaknesses results in falling victim to Oreos. Or maybe self-pity. Sometime they are one and the same for me. When we pity ourselves, we sometimes think it is hopeless to even try to change. Or we criticize other people who have accomplished what we have not.

The solution is to remember we are all equally loved by Heavenly Father because we are His sons and daughters. “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10). This scripture includes all souls, not just slim souls, or witty souls, or on-time-to-church souls. We are all invited to partake of eternal life. I do not believe that our Savior, who atoned for each and every one of us, wants us to compare ourselves. To compare implies that we are in a competition. Yet the road to heaven is not a race. We should not compete with each other; we should serve each other. The only person we are in competition with is ourself.

We have been designed with specific strengths (and even weaknesses) so we can help each other make it to the Celestial Kingdom. “For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God. To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby” (D&C 46: 11-12). And because God loves all of us, we should love each other too. Pure love pushes out envy. Jealousy and criticism are signs of low self-worth and should not be manifested.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, addressed this subject:
"God is fully aware that you and I are not perfect...God is also fully aware that the people you think are perfect are not. And yet we spend so much time and energy comparing ourselves to others — usually comparing our weaknesses to their strengths. This drives us to create expectations for ourselves that are impossible to meet. As a result, we never celebrate our good efforts because they seem to be less than what someone else does. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. It’s wonderful that you have strengths. And it is part of your mortal experience that you do have weaknesses.
God wants to help us to eventually turn all of our weaknesses into strengths, but He knows that this is a long-term goal. He wants us to become perfect, and if we stay on the path of discipleship, one day we will...Keep working on it, but stop punishing yourself" (Forget Me Not, October 2011 General Conference).

And I would add: stop punishing other people when they are better at some things than you are. I have friends and family who are skilled at sewing quilts, designing crafts cute enough to sell, combining mismatched clothing into fashionable ensembles, and taking professional photographs. I am grateful because these are talents I do not possess. I benefit from and am inspired by their strengths. I could not have run a half marathon without encouragement and advice from my runner friends. I share my gifts every time I make people laugh, lend a listening ear, sing in church, or deliver a loaf of homemade bread to a neighbor.

Whenever I begin to envy others and pity myself because they have an experience, ability, or possession I lack, I ask myself, "Would having that affect whether or not my family makes it to the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom?" If it would affect it, then I work to incorporate it into my life. If it would not, I do not worry about it. By keeping this eternal perspective, I allow myself to be the woman who is happy with her identity simply because she is a beloved daughter of God. I am jam-packed with self-worth and recognize that my road to eternal life is specifically designed with me in mind and should not be compared to anyone else. I cheer other people on! Then I can love my baby-birthing body and talk to my neighbor while eating only two Oreo’s instead of six.