I think that the impetus of growth is when you begin to acknowledge your faults. Only a child thinks that nothing is wrong with them. For one of my prayers a few months ago, I asked God to mature me and he has graciously shown me my sins. The first round of it was greed and unforgiveness. God made me realize that my stinginess wasn’t necessarily a virtue and that I have harbored many ill feelings since childhood I’ve never truly let go of. But lately, I’ve come to see a new round of inefficiencies in my comparison and desire for self-praise.
Comparing Yourself to Others
First off, comparison. For all of my adult life I have rigorously compared myself to others. I’ve compared my accomplishments to others and have always tried to keep up with the timeline of the greats, because I so desperately want to be great. Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein when she was 18. Mozart wrote music when he was, I don’t know like a baby or something. Their age of success has constantly been chasing me in my mind saying, “Hurry up! You’re getting behind on life!”
Many times the world trains us to be competitive. Especially for girls, I feel like we are taught to compete with other girls from an early age. School teaches us that our classmates are also our competition. Teachers and professors warn us of the competitive job market and how hard it’s going to be. So as a former student I’ve always tried to see where I was in the student pool. Was I getting enough experience compared to everyone else? Have I got as much leadership experience as the impressive kids? Am I as smart, talented, or ready as my peers? This mentality doesn’t leave you in post grad life either. ‘My friend has a job already, why don’t I have a job yet?’ type thoughts constantly flood my mind. It’s become a subconscious habit for me. More than a habit, it’s an obsession. It’s so hard for me to be satisfied with who I am rather than measuring myself to somebody else’s standards.
Thanks to my God-given epiphany I can see how comparison and jealousy can make it so much harder to be happy. No matter who you are, you’ll always find someone else better than you. I believe that you can never truly be the best at something. Even if you get first place now, who’s to say someone else might not one-up you in the future or has already done so in the past? Comparison is dangerous because it never ends. You never win.
In order to be truly happy, I think I’ve learned that you have to be grateful for all that you are. Instead of obsessing about all that you are not, use your shortcomings as an opportunity to grow while appreciating how much you have already grown. The only person you need to compare yourself to is who you were yesterday. Each of us lives on our own timeline.
This I believe has been going on since childhood. Desiring self-praise is so much a part of my personality and who I am. When you’re a kid you want to brag about your gold stars, and medals, and first places. You can’t celebrate your success until you get that applause. Only then does a kid feel gratified. Well, the thing is I don’t think I ever grew out of that. Whenever I do something well, I want to hear that I have done so from other people. It’s as if that’s my permission to feel happy. I can’t just feel happy on my own terms.
Applause is like a drug. You can feed off of compliments and get that inner high. Whenever I get an award, an A, sing a song I need to tell someone and I need that someone to tell me ‘Great job!’ All of a sudden I’ve realized how childish that is!
Being humble is the hardest challenge I’ve encountered in life so far. I think the world teaches us to take pride in ourselves. We confuse confidence for self-righteous pride and humility for weakness. But think about how much strength it takes to be humble? How much strength it takes not to brag, not to yearn for praise, not to announce to the whole world when you’ve accomplished something. It’s almost unbearable!
Humility is such a hard task to carry out because I think it takes the ultimate test of maturity, wisdom, and strength. That’s why I believe that Jesus has humility in his identity. If Jesus, our God, is humble and that’s what we are to aspire to than that means that we are to aspire to be like Jesus, the greatest height of greatness there is (man, that was a long extrapolation!).
Change Takes Time
Just because I’ve realized these things about myself doesn’t mean they are automatically fixed. The way I like to think about it is this; it’s taken your entire life to grow and instill these habits, how can you expect to change them in a day? But I’m happy that God has again shown me my sins. It means that he cares enough to see me grow. Choosing gratefulness instead of comparison is going to be hard because comparison has become a reflex for me. Even harder, being humble instead of finding satisfaction in praise is going to be a constant struggle. The biggest choice someone can make, I believe, is to choose NOT to be your own God. I think self-rule is part of being human. But when I decided to accept God and not myself, I had to also choose to have him be sovereign in my life. It’s a decision-but it’s also an ongoing practice that takes time, mistakes, repentance, forgiveness, and endless more tries. But thank God we have the chances to try!
This post reminds me of that Britney Spears song, I’m Not a Girl Not Yet a Woman. So corny I know, but it’s a nice soundtrack to this stage of my life. Trying to grow up but not quite there yet. It feels so weird to call myself a woman. I imagine a real woman to be this strong and powerfully fierce being. It’s like, yes! I so want to be that! I want to be like Eowyn from Lord of the Rings! But I know it’s going to take a long time to get there. At least I’m on my way. Self-realization is really a blessing in disguise. It can be easy to get discouraged by who you are, but knowing your flaws is the first step to becoming the 2.0 of yourself. So, huzzah (Isn’t that a fantastic word?)! I’m one step closer! HUZZAH!