We are often our own toughest critic. Why is that? We compare what we have going on with everyone around us, and usually don’t like all that we see. I was recently sitting at the dining room table, all set up and ready to get some real work done during the precious (but short) time that I have to myself, a magical time called “nap time.” My thoughts were churning in full swing, my fingers were typing frantically, my coffee was steaming as it sat next to my computer, and I was enjoying the feeling of productivity immensely! Suddenly, my fingers stopped mid-sentence… Was that little girl voices I heard over the baby monitor? I glanced at the clock; it was nowhere close to their usual wake-up time. What?? Not today! I had things to get done and my brain felt like it would burst if I didn’t finish working out my thoughts. I thought, “Well, I guess the girls will just have to wait until I am ready to go get them.” Then I muttered under my breath about how these were the moments that I struggle with being a mom. I just wish that I could finish what I want to, or need to, without being interrupted. What a thought, right? Have you had moments like these? Well, if you have, then you know what happened next. After finishing up about 5 more minutes of work and putting everything away, I went to get my kids up from their nap. When I saw their sweet little faces, I felt immediate remorse for being upset with them. I then spent the rest of the afternoon feeling bad about myself. Feeling bad that I was irritated with my children, who did nothing wrong. Feeling bad that I didn’t accomplish what I had hoped to. Feeling bad that I didn’t show my kids (and my mom, who was an innocent bystander) what an attitude of grace would be in that situation. Feeling bad that I put so many expectations on myself and my time. You see, the truth is that we need to know and believe in the grace that God gives us first, BUT we also need to extend that grace to others and to ourselves! How do we do that when often our greatest enemy, and the reason we wallow in defeat, is the person staring back at us from the mirror?
1. COMPARISON DESTROYS
I think the first way is quite obvious… we need to stop comparing! Stop comparing yourself with the ladies in your Sunday school class or Bible study. Stop comparing yourself with the women you see in magazines, heading out to work in their stylish heels and trending-this-season dresses. Stop comparing yourself with the blog writers you follow who just seem to have put it all together somehow. Stop comparing yourself with your mother (as wonderful of a role model as she may be)! And (this is a big one for me), stop comparing yourself to a former version of yourself! Before marriage and kids, I worked in an office, doing a very fulfilling job that I loved. I was able to dress up every day, to whatever level of sophistication I desired on that particular day. If I wanted to wear a pencil skirt and high heels, then I did… without worrying about how I would modestly bend over to pick up my kid or if I could easily nurse my baby in said outfit. And yes, you guessed it, my clothes were definitely a smaller size in that pre-baby body! Sometimes, I stop and day-dream about this former version of me – I am comparing myself with myself. And it makes me miserable. The comparison game needs to stop! It is a lose/lose situation. You have come through some amazing life experiences to get where you are right now. Appreciate where you came from, sure, but don’t wish to go backward. God is completing His glorious plans for you, girl, and you don’t want to miss that! Philippians 1:6 “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
2. WHEN IS IT TOO MUCH?
This leads me to number 2… give yourself MARGIN! This is critical, simple, and requires a conscious choice to execute. You have to give yourself room to breathe. I did an awesome Bible study by Priscilla Shirer, called Breathe. I very highly recommend it – it will challenge you to rethink everything! Her basic premise for the study is that God built into Creation the need for boundaries, for margin. All of our time, our possessions, our emotions – every aspect of our lives need to have limits around them so that we can breathe. How simple and amazing is that thought!? Can you imagine what your day would be like if you didn’t overfill your schedule, your closet, your plate (ahem…), your senses, your mind with excess stuff? Guess what– You don’t have to have all of those things; you don’t have to complete all of those tasks; you don’t have to be the one woman to make it all happen flawlessly. Stop putting that burden on yourself. We have unlimited resources out there, teaching us how to be more efficient to get it all done. Yet God himself took a day off after creating the world to show us how to create margin. (Seriously, look up Priscilla’s study – it blew my mind!)
3. LAUGH A LITTLE
And for our third point, you must laugh at yourself! Not to mock or criticize, but genuinely look for the humor in all of life’s imperfect moments. Laughter is the best medicine, right? As you begin to see yourself as God sees you (as a 10); as you see the grace that He has offered to you in each situation, maybe you won’t take yourself quite so seriously. Maybe you will be able to sit back and laugh at the blunders that used to throw you into a tailspin. I can get so caught up in the moment (quite often, unfortunately) that I am quick to irritation, frustration, embarrassment, even anger. But, when I remove myself just a little to evaluate what just happened, I find it much easier to smile and put it all into perspective. My 3-year old is such a great example of this (sorry, kiddo). When common sense gets thrown out the window and she just cannot let something go, she sinks further and further into frustration until she is crying and angry about something that NEVER HAPPENED. That is just a silly example, but isn’t this something that we grown women do too?
So when you find that you’re not the wife, mom, hostess, colleague, or friend that you want to be, give yourself some grace. When everyone around you seems to handle their situations flawlessly, give yourself some grace. When your friends seem to be two steps ahead of you in life, give yourself some grace. When your baby is 3 months old, and you still don’t fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans, give yourself some grace! When you lose sight of your beautiful position in Jesus Christ, give yourself MUCH grace. For heaven’s sake, God has already given you ALL of His grace, so the only one holding back is you. And while you’re at it – give your sister next to you some sweet grace because there is no room in Jesus’ world for competition or pettiness. But that’s a topic for another day.