Sometimes other women intimidate me.
My husband asked me if I was nervous. I knew I shouldn’t be, but I was. I knew it was silly, but I was just being realistic. I was headed to a two-day retreat with a bunch of other youth pastor’s wives that I didn’t know. I was about to walk into a room filled with ladies who (I assumed) would be trendy and beautiful and successful and just waiting to size each other up. I felt inadequate and inferior. And I was scared to death.
There’s this thing about us women. We so often feel like we are in competition with each other. We are constantly assessing the state of women around us- their appearance, their marriages, their parenting, their skills, their success- and judging ourselves against them. I am guilty of it. I have beat myself up more times than I’d like to admit, just because I *think* someone else is doing this womanhood thing better than me. And as a result, we put our guard up and we back up into ourselves just a little bit further, distancing from what could potentially be beautiful and life-giving friendships.
I think the thing that I have realized most about this epidemic is how we have lost the ability to find the joy in celebrating one another. We all too often treat life as a competition rather than a journey. So when another woman in our lives has a victory, instead of rejoicing with her and celebrating her success, we turn inward and wonder why it wasn’t me.
Why did she get the promotion? I worked just as hard.
How does she always have a new outfit? I’ve been wearing the same clothes since 1999.
I wish I could go on vacation all the time like they do.
She and her husband always seem so happy. I hardly ever see mine.
Her house looks like a magazine. Mine looks like a war zone.
How are her children always so well-behaved and mine are like wild banshees?
She has perfect hair. It’s shiny and long and perfect. She’s like a Pantene Pro-V commercial. Except even more perfect.
I wish I had just half of the talent she has. I can’t do anything well.
Her meals look like they should be on Food Network. Mine come out of a can or a box.
How does she stay so skinny? I could diet for 6 months and still not look like that.
Why does everyone else seem to have it all together, and I’m just barely hanging on?
See what comparison does? It focuses inward. It always leads to a negative result. It pushes us further away from the relationships we were intended to have and steals the joy of celebrating one another. We have bought into the lie that our value and worth is determined by how we compare to the state of those around us, instead of realizing the truth that our worth is in who we are. None of us are perfect. Even the most perfect person you know isn’t perfect. They are far from it. We have to stop judging and assessing and comparing and just choose to be who we were created to be.
When we decide to let go of comparison and find the freedom to be ourselves, as imperfect and flawed as we may be, we are able to regain the joy of celebrating each other. And I don’t mean just a surface, “I’m so happy for you” (while secretly inside you are throwing a pity party for yourself). I’m talking about true, genuine celebration of each other in our success and in our shortcomings. When a woman in your life experiences a victory, don’t give into the temptation to make it about you. Let that moment be all about her. Celebrate with her. Smile with her. Embrace her and let her joy spill over into your heart.
When a woman in your life experiences a heartache, comfort her. Cry with her. Be genuinely compassionate and walk with her through her valley. Although those times are more emotionally draining, the fulfillment that comes from a relationship that celebrates AND suffers together is immeasurable.
So that retreat I went to? At first, yes, it was intimidating and scary and I felt small and insecure. But during those 48 hours we were given the opportunity to let our guard down and just be real and open and honest and transparent with one another and it was one of the most freeing experiences of my life. In those moments of genuine conversation, we laid out our successes, our fears, and our struggles and through tears we saw that when the images were stripped away, we weren’t so different from each other. We had all been hurt. We were all aching for support. We all felt alone.
Through that experience, God showed me that this wasn’t something that was only possible in that environment. But instead of waiting for others to open up and be real, I have to choose to create genuine relationships with people around me. If realness is what I long for, then I have to be the catalyst to bring it about. Will everyone jump on board? No. Will there be women who still stay guarded? Probably. Is the uncertainty of the outcome really worth putting myself out there? YES.
I so long to see a generation of women who are strong and brave and wise enough to choose honest friendship over comparison and offense. I’m sick of the idea of the Pinterest-perfect women that make us feel less than adequate. There is no such thing. Period. I am flawed. You are flawed. But we are also beautiful and unique and complex. So let’s stop being scared and intimidated and start embracing and celebrating each other.
If you’re ready to join me, I encourage you look for ways to celebrate the women around you. Encourage them. Embrace them. Rejoice with them. Let’s find the joy in true, honest and open relationships with each other.
And when we do, we may see that we’re really not that different after all.