By Tammy Darling
Women have a tendency to compete with each other on a much greater level than any of us realize. It’s become so ingrained in us and so socially acceptable that, for the most part, we don’t even realize that we’re doing it. Comparing appearance, job status, relationship status, parenting style, and possessions—it seems to be never ending.
As women, we have failed to understand that we are all on the same team. The enemy loves nothing more than to see us fall into the competition trap, but Ephesians 6:12 clearly reminds us that our fight is not against flesh and blood. Women are a powerful force in the kingdom of God but not if we focus all of our attention on tearing each other down in an effort to build ourselves up.
I know I’m not the only woman who feels so inadequate. I see others drowning in oceans of insecurity all around me. But instead of tossing out a life preserver, we often attempt to preserve ourselves. And so the distance between us continues to grow.
As we focus on our own feelings of failure and insecurity, we are quick to point fingers at other women, to keep score, and to pull out our measuring sticks to see how we compare. With raised eyebrows, pursed lips, and hands on hips, we judge—failing to recognize that we’re doing the very thing we don’t want done to us. We don’t want to be judged; we want to be loved. For who we are. At this very moment.
We’re more alike than we realize. We are the women who go to work and judge those who stay at home. We are the stay-at-home women who criticize working women. We judge the woman at the park on her iPhone while the kids play, all the while feeling judged because our own child is having a not-so-stellar day. We compare ourselves to the super-spiritual minister’s wife and feel we’ll never measure up. And on and on it goes without our ever realizing that these other women are also feeling insecure and competitive.
Free to Be Me
Years ago I got caught up in the competition trap with another mom at our church. As our insecurities grew, so did our comparisons. Before long we were even comparing our kids’ clothes and the food they ate! The mommy measuring was unending.
I’m not proud of that season of my life, but I did learn a lot from it. One of the biggest lessons I learned is that competing and comparing murders spiritual growth. It is not possible to grow closer to the Lord while ripping others apart.
When your life is spent, the Lord will not ask you why you weren’t Esther, Hannah, or Mary (unless, of course, that is actually your name!). He won’t ask if you were like the authors and speakers at the big conference you went to last year; he will ask if you were you. The you he created. Because the fact is—God designed you to be perfectly you. How freeing it is when we realize we don’t have to be like someone else! I am free to be me. And you are free to be you.
Who we think we should be and who God created us to be are often two very different things. The two are at odds, when they should be one and the same.
When a woman who is caring for her mom with Alzheimer’s hears a sermon challenging people to get out of bed an hour early to spend time with the Lord, the woman winces. She would love an hour of quiet time with God—at any time of the day, but it just doesn’t happen, especially when her free time is spent running errands or finally catching up on sleep. For this tired woman, the sermon takeaway is “If you love God, you’ll do the same.” The resulting comparison of her spirituality puts her under a dark cloud of guilt and she believes she’ll never measure up.
Mending the Rift
Instead of mentally measuring ourselves against other women, it’s time to recognize the true enemy. (Hint: The enemy is not the size 2 fresh-out-of-college new coworker). What we can do is seek to mend the rift between women as we build up and strengthen one another.
What if we deliberately took a moment to encourage a coworker who is after the same promotion we are, knowing that it’s all in God’s hands? What if we decided to talk to the perfectly polished woman sitting across from us at church? What if we chose to focus on someone else instead of our own inadequacies?
We can choose to be free of the competition trap. We no longer have to convince our female counterparts that we’re important, all the while secretly fearing we’re not. We don’t have to whip out the measuring stick when we encounter another woman. We don’t have to pretend we’re perfect.
Make the choice and decide you’ll go first. Lift a load from another woman’s shoulders as you open up with your own stories of failure. We all have them. If we are willing to share them, God will use our experiences to bring healing and wholeness to other women. The gift of transparency and acceptance is so precious. It fosters community and solidarity and lets other women know that not only are they not alone but that we are all in this together.
We must remember that we are walking, talking, living lessons for those around us; the world is watching. Are we living Christ’s command in John 15:12 to “love one another as I have loved you”? Christianity is all about relationship, and it is up to us to end the competition with other women, which prevents real relationship from happening.
The perfect woman is a myth. We are all beautifully flawed, imperfect beings who struggle, fail, and mess up. And that’s OK. There is such freedom in admitting that, in saying, “Me too.” The boundary lines between women can be erased, but we have to choose to do so.
Tammy Darling is a freelance writer from Three Springs, Pennsylvania.
Avoid the Trap
While we may get bitten by the comparison bug once in a while, we shouldn’t allow ourselves to walk right into the competition trap. Here’s how to avoid it:
• Remember. You are who God says you are. Period.
• Get in the Word. Study what God has to say about you and your privileges as a child of God.
• Check your thought life. What are you believing about yourself? Do you live according to Philippians 4:8?
• Go against the grain. It takes courage to follow your heart and follow Christ instead of the crowd.
• Learn contentment. When you are satisfied with who you are and what you have, you won’t be jealous of what others have, are doing, or look like.
• Refrain from one-upmanship. When you hear of another’s achievement, don’t feel the need to do one better. Their accomplishment doesn’t affect who you are. Sincerely congratulate her.
• Get a new perspective. Realize that success in God’s eyes isn’t anything like the world’s definition. Learn to look at other women through God’s eyes.