One of my best friends in the world initially intimidated me with her beauty.
It sounds silly now because she’s incredibly kind and humble, but before I knew her and all I could base my opinion on was her exterior package, I was wary.
I met Mary Alice as a newlywed. I was a new girl in a new city, eager to make friends.
And when I saw her one night at a party – this tall, thin, gorgeous blonde surrounded by friends and family who were celebrating her move back home – I jumped to conclusions. She was so pretty I assumed she must be full of herself, a blonde snob who I’d probably have nothing in common with.
But as fate would have it, our husbands were fraternity brothers. And when she and her husband invited us to their home a few weeks later, I agreed to go for my husband’s sake.
To my surprise, that night was an answered prayer. Within two minutes of actually talking to this gorgeous blonde, I realized I’d pegged her wrong. I immediately fell in love with her sweet nature, gentleness, and self-deprecating humor.
For months I’d prayed for a friend who I deeply and easily connected with, and little did I know, she’d be the one. She’d be the new friend who felt like an old friend thanks to that priceless gift called chemistry.
Twenty years later, Mary Alice is still one of my best friends. I’m so thankful for her, yet at the same time, I realize I almost missed out. I almost missed the chance to have her positively impact my life.
The problem wasn’t her beauty, but my insecurity toward her beauty. I compared my exterior life to her exterior life – which included a local network of family and friends that I envied – and fixated on the inequity.
What I never considered at the party was how her soul might outshine her appearance. As impressive as she looked on the outside, maybe her interior was even prettier. Maybe we could be friends if I could look below the surface and get to know her as a person.
I share this story because I think comparison can prevent, ruin, and hurt friendships. Comparison keeps us from truly loving each other and appreciating the unique strengths and blessings God grants to every individual.
Until we admit this, until we realize how feeling inferior (or superior) to another girl doesn’t mean she needs to change, but rather we may have a heart issue that needs addressing, we’ll never have the relationships that allow us to genuinely cheer for other females and see ourselves on the same team.
Last year I read a great parenting book written by counselors at Daystar Counseling in Nashville. Their collective wisdom is based on decades of working with adolescents, and of the many insights they shared, one set off a lightbulb in my head:
Boys compete. Girls compare.
Wow, isn’t that the truth? Doesn’t it align with the fact that one of the most common struggles for males is PRIDE and one of the most common struggles for females is INSECURITY?
Unfortunately, it starts early. You may notice signs on a playground when boys try to one-up each other to prove athletic dominance while girls gossip or make comments about other girls to make themselves look or feel better in comparison.
I’m sure boys compare themselves too, but since my personal and professional life revolve around the world of girls, I can only speak for what I witness there. I’ve seen girls be completely confident one minute and lose all confidence the next as they look around and start comparing themselves. I’ve noticed that when a girl takes her eyes off her lane – even briefly – to sneak sideways glances at a peer, it can mess with her psyche and trigger self-doubt.
It doesn’t matter how pretty, smart, talented, popular, or impressive a girl is either. She’s still likely to look around, see how she measures up, and stay keenly aware of the girl a few steps ahead of her in some important category.
Comparison is never helpful. It makes us feel inferior or superior, less-than someone else or better-than them. God created us for more – to celebrate those ahead of us and help those behind us – and nobody needs to lose their race so we can win ours. Our lane is our own, and when we focus on what we were born to do while encouraging others in what they were born to do, we gain confidence and grow camaraderie.
Little girls who compare themselves become big girls who compare themselves. We never outgrow the urge to rank ourselves or “master” emotions like jealousy. We can, however, keep our green monster under control. We can refuse to be blind to the good in others and not make snap assumptions like thinking someone’s exterior package looks too shiny – or not shiny enough.
One of my most treasured friendships almost didn’t happen because I felt inadequate next to the prettiest girl in the room. I saw her as a potential threat, not a potential gift. I’ve shifted my thinking since then, and I hope to help others do the same.
What is good for one girl is good for all girls. A victory for one is a victory for all. The world won’t teach this mentality, so it’s up to us, as moms and adults, to train our daughters to admire and appreciate each other’s gifts and blessings. To help them be confident enough in themselves – and God’s plan for them – that they can genuinely root for other girls.
The starting point, of course, is modeling what we hope to see. Becoming the kind of woman who can handle an external inequity without having an internal come-apart.
This is easier said than done, of course, but it’s worth our time and effort. On the other side of comparison, good things await all of us. And if we’re really lucky, we may be surprised to find an answer to a prayer.
Thanks for reading this article today. If you found the message helpful, please share it through social media.
I’ve written two books for teen & tween girls designed to empower them through faith. Both Liked and 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know have been used widely across the U.S. for small group studies.
Finally, I’ll be in Franklin, TN, for a mother/daughter event at Franklin First UMC on Thursday, Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. My topic is “Fearless: Living a Life of Purpose, Passion, and Action”, and you can register/purchase tickets here. Please join us and bring your daughter, friends, a small group, a youth group, or your favorite girl age 5th grade and up.
Posted by Kari on November 12, 2018