I'm Stepping Out of the Comparison Game

American Woman, I tip my hat to you.

I forgot what it was like to live under the burden of expectation. The countless number of ways to live and love and mother also means countless voices telling you how to do that. And choice is overwhelming to me right now. Food, housing, clothing, appearance, free time, creative pursuits, ministry, friendships, child-rearing philosophies, books, travel...so many options, so many "right ways", so much confusion.

Moving back to America has opened my eyes to how challenging it is to be a woman here. I've foundered a bit, trying to gain my footing - how to shop for clothes, how much milk should cost, where to get a hair cut. And wherever I look for inspiration, I also immediately find ways to feel not enough. 

When I spend more than X number of dollars at the grocery store on our weekly food, I feel like I should be able to do better than that. Look at all the money-saving strategies on Pinterest!

When I choose to buy regular milk instead of organic milk to save $4 and come in under my budget, I feel guilty for buying "dirty milk" to feed my child and wonder whether he'll grow man-boobs from the hormones.

When I skip the make-up in the morning and barely manage to tame my hair, I chide myself and think, I should care more about my looks; "they" say I'm worth it. Even though sleeping 5 more minutes is a lot more important to me than whether my face is pretty.

When I haven't exercised in months and struggle to read the Bible every day, I feel ashamed that I can't manage a simple task that so many women have figured out - I just need to try harder.

When my house is dusted with crumbs and the bathroom hasn't been cleaned in two weeks and the laundry is overflowing, I bite my lip and look around, thinking, If I only had a cleaning schedule, I could get my act together - despite the fact that I just worked 9 hours and barely have enough energy to feed the baby and put us both to bed.

When I still haven't finished painting the half-renovated kitchen or replaced the pink wingback chair we borrowed from Grandma's basement three months ago, visiting a friend's well-decorated home is more an act of self-immolation than inspiration.

But the underlying theme in all these scenarios is comparison. I look at other women and think they have figured it all out, and if I follow their footsteps, I can figure it out, too. But guess what? My life is different. My priorities are different. Let's be honest - appearance is just not that important to me. Living in Cambodia broke me of the need to always look fabulous, because I never looked fabulous. Humidity and lack of electricity will do that to you. Did you know I never owned a hair dryer in the 3 years I lived there?

And cleaning? After living in a home with windows open all the time, geckos that pooped (and died) everywhere, and ants that invaded every space - my house in America just seems pretty darn clean. So what if I don't dust religiously or keep to a schedule? I'll clean when I notice it's dirty, and save my energies for other more enjoyable tasks.

I have learned to buy the food I feel is right for our family. Sometimes organic, sometimes not; mostly whole foods, but a processed treat once in a while won't kill us. I even bought Girl Scout cookies last week - praise Jesus for Caramel Delites. It just seemed like the patriotic thing to do. I probably won't ever be able to boast of buying all our groceries for $50 a week, or stick to a 100% organic diet. But God has given us the money and time to buy food that nourishes our bodies and our souls, and I'm thankful for that.

I'm learning to uncover the life that is right for us - always pursuing Jesus first, giving each other grace when we fail (which is often), and loving others well. Realizing those are my true priorities also allows me to see everything else as nonessential and secondary. I can intentionally step out of the comparison game and live the life God has given me, not fighting to live the life he has given someone else.

How have you stepped out of the comparison game? Do you ever struggle with figuring out the life you're supposed to live?