One of the hardest things to do in life is to be yourself. Through the innovation of the internet and social media it is easier than ever to look at what others have and then compare. Popular culture is a bully when it comes to self-image and personal style threats to beat you up. Leaving you irrelevant in a world that craves relevancy.
I often go to the mall to clear my head and people watch. It might sound like misery for some, but for me, mall walking is therapeutic. I can recall a particular weeknight where I was weighing the decision of either becoming a communication director or continuing to pursue a music position in vocational ministry. As I moved past each store, gazing into the full glass windows viewing each display, I noticed that I was gradually looking less at the merchandise and taking note of the product being reflected by the window. I stopped and just looked at myself, at my image.
As I stared at my reflection my appearance didn’t seem all that relevant. At a time when church music leaders, or worship leaders as they are referred to inside the Christian world, were starting to wear fedoras and scarves, I was still wearing American Eagle and Aeropostale. As they started growing full beards I was still sporting the soul patch from 1998. I had yet to trade my $10 Old Navy relaxed fit jeans for the skinny jeans at Tilly’s. I thought to myself “I don’t even look like a worship leader anymore. Would anyone even want me?” Though it seems like a silly question to pose, I feel that it is indicative of how many of us feel in our own way.“Is who I am good enough for others?”
Is Who I am Good Enough?
We all struggle with self-image in some form. The real answer to the question of “who am I?” has become increasingly difficult to uncover. As culture throws so much “stuff” into the pond we can no longer see our own reflection. At some point we give up on discovering who we are and begin to look at others and say, “I’ll try that.”
In our professions, comparing ourselves to others is one of the most detrimental things we can do. If we fail to pursue who God created us to be and begin shopping for affliction shirts because that’s what is hip, we start to telegraph a very dangerous message: who I am isn’t good enough.
In his book, Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry, Doug Fields tells leaders to avoid the comparison trap. Here’s an excerpt.
When you compare you lose. Either you’re filled with pride because you’re better than another person, or you’re dejected because you don’t measure up. Both attitudes are wrong and destructive. Comparison places what you know about yourself (or your ministry) against what you don’t know about another youth worker (or her ministry). That’s not a fair evaluation.
I loved his entire take on comparing ourselves to others. Moments like I had in the mall, where I notice all the areas I perceive I’m falling short, come often and are poisonous. The reality is that our worth, our value doesn’t come with our ability to keep up with the leader or organization down the street. That’s foolish. These things come from the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf. Jesus didn’t die because he wants me to eventually convert to skinny jeans… he died because he wants to use me to in a unique way that no other person is designed to be used. The worst response I could give is forsake who he made me to be for the sake of fitting in with culture (popular or church culture).
As I challenge myself I would like to challenge you too. When you do find yourself playing the comparison game redirect your energy, compare yourself to Jesus and desire to become more like him. That’s what this life is all about, right? In the words of Kevin Max from his not so successful solo album, “Be yourself, there’s no one else who does it quite like you.”
What do You think?
Is this a topic that is relevant? Do you find you and those in your circle of influence struggle with self-image? What are some ways you battle against the comparison trap?