“Is someone coming over?” Tot asked as I cleaned the bathroom.
“Then why are you cleaning?”
Clearly, my five-year-old thought we only clean house when we are expecting company. His comment several days ago stung because his words were true. I have slacked on my housekeeping. It’s a hard realization because I used to keep a neat home. My mom even complimented me on it. Back then, I also used to write at least 1500 words a week as well as critiquing the works of my writing group. Now, I’m lucky to spit out my 300 to 500 word blog entries. I couldn’t help but dwell on how poorly I measured up to how I used to be.
I’ve written posts and given speeches about how dangerous it is for women to compare themselves to other women. Until recently, I hadn’t considered our true worst enemy–ourselves. How often do we compare the now to what we used to be? Rarely is our current self the winner of that competition. Some say looking back is a great motivator, but I find it’s more often the source of our harshest criticism. There are a couple reasons why our current self can’t come out on top.
First, we idealize our past selves. The superwoman we were five, ten, or fifteen years ago could study all night long and be attentive in class the next day. She could clean a house to white glove perfection in thirty minutes. And, of course, she was a size two. We remember all the successes of our younger years, and none of the flaws or failures.
Second, our life circumstances change over time. It’s hard to cook a gourmet dinner when chasing after two little ones under two. Or it’s tough to hit the gym after eight long hours of staff meetings. Comparing your present life to where it was equates to comparing cats and fish. Both are pets, but that’s where the similarities end. When I kept a neat house and wrote 1500 words a week, I mothered and taught an independent tween and had few other drains on my time. Now along with homeschooling, I head up the children’s ministry at my church and lead teach two classes at my co-op. Not to mention that back then, I was only beginning to experience the effects of my chronic illness.
Using our past self as a standard of comparison is fruitless and demeaning. Plus, as I’ve already mentioned. it’s not even accurate. It brings to mind these verses from Philippians 3:13-14 NLT, “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” I prefer the wording of verse 14 in the KJV, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
There are no heavenly prizes for being superior to another. Instead of thinking “I used to be,” we need to think “I should be.” I should be more like Jesus. I should be walking out my calling. Comparison, whether to ourselves or someone else, distracts us from striving forward in God’s will. I am doing my best to fulfill the plans God has for this phase in my life. So I may not have the tidiest house and that’s okay.