Listening to my sisters-in-law discuss their latest recipe finds and cuisine creations at an enjoyable Mother’s Day dinner, I appreciated their excitement over all things kitchen and hospitality. Both accomplished hosts and chefs—a quality I admire due to my palpable inadequacies in each—they exchanged recipes and stories while I listened attentively.
As the conversation continued, I felt a slow shift in my thoughts. Before I knew it, I was sledding down the slippery slope of comparison.
Shifting from connection to comparison happened so imperceptibly, I was caught unaware and overtaken by the emotions swelling inside:
I was both shocked and terrified at the barrage of self-deprecating feelings overtaking reasonable thought.
As I began to rationally assess these thoughts absconding with my self-worth and joy, I was able to rewrite enough of the negative narratives swirling in my brain to bring myself back and enjoy connecting what my family the rest of the evening.
Later, reflecting again, I discovered the origin of my troublesome self-tales:
When disappointed, especially in ourselves, it takes courage to look inward, reflecting on the root of the disappointment instead of looking outward in blame, judgment, jealousy, embarrassment, anger, or worst of all, shame.
Sometimes we need to reframe the disappointment, exposing it to the light of truth. Other times, we need to rewrite the disappointment, modifying not the frame but the narrative.
The words on the page need to shift, change perspective, become softer, more understanding, gentle and life-giving.
It’s a time to practice self-compassion.
Author and researcher Dr. Kristin Neff pioneered research on self-compassion, and I love her definition.
Having compassion for oneself is really no different than having compassion for others… It involves acting the same way towards yourself when you are having a difficult time, fail, or notice something you don’t like about yourself. Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself…you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect?
Speaking of “perfect”, I recently learned the side effects of perfectionism, another culprit of self-criticism and disappointment.
Healthy striving is self-focused: “How can I improve?” Perfectionism is other-focused: “What will they think? Perfectionism is a self destructive and addictive belief system that fuels this primary thought: If I look perfect, and do everything perfectly, I can avoid or minimize the painful feelings of shame, judgment, and blame. Brené Brown
Brené continues, “Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval and acceptance. Most perfectionists were raised being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule-following, people-pleasing, appearance, sports). Somewhere along the way, we adopt this dangerous and debilitating belief system: I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it.” Atlas of the Heart
Full confession: I am a recovering perfectionist.
If I’m not careful, this formerly engrained self-destructive belief system can sneak back in and run rampant with my beliefs, thoughts, and actions. Left unchecked, it leads to self-disappointment, loss of self-trust, exhaustion, and ultimately burnout.
So, back to that Mother’s Day family meal.
What I discovered is I lost self-trust through the course of the conversation, leading to self-disappointment, not because of anything they said, but because I turned inward in critical self-evaluation and perfectionism instead of staying present, engaged, and connected.
Self-trust is normally the first casualty of failure or mistakes. We stop trusting ourselves when we hurt others, get hurt, feel shame, or question our worth. Brené Brown
Jesus also has a lot to say about our worth. I long to get better at reminding myself of His truth in these situations. From Ephesians 1, we are:
- Showered with His kindness
- Recipients of an incredible inheritance
- Filled with His Spirit
Have you experienced the ambush of comparison while trying to connect? Were you able to rewrite the negative narratives, or did you allow them entry for a hostile takeover?
Over the next few weeks, take inventory of your thoughts and emotions when connecting with friends or family.
Then, try practicing self-compassion when you feel self-disappointment or a loss of self-trust attempting to hijack your joy, presence, and peace of mind. It takes practice, but the peace and freedom you find will pay eternal dividends.
We have a Good Shepherd who longs to give us everything we need for a rich and satisfying life in Him. Let’s look to and trust Him to do so!
“Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.” John 10:9-11