Dare to Not Compare

 Today’s guest post is from Emily Ogilvie Sharp. When asked to tell us about herself, Emily said: 

I graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Elementary Education.  I currently use that knowledge as my husband and I raise two daughters, ages 2 and 4. I spend my days playing dolls and dress-ups, but am looking forward to playing cars and trucks as we are expecting a boy in September!  We live in Southern Utah where we enjoy climbing red rocks and basking in warm weather.  I sing in the Heritage Choir, train for local triathlons, and love to cook, read a good book, and write on my blog http://mormonmommymusings.blogspot.com/

My body has always been what I like to call curvaceous. My husband tells  me he loves my curves.  That is wonderful, because sometimes I do not. After giving birth to my first daughter, I weighed over 200 pounds. My self-loathing, like my weight, was at an all-time high and I knew I could not be the healthy, confident mother I wanted to be unless I changed. I dieted and exercised and lost 60 pounds! Then I got pregnant with my second daughter. The weight came on fast and after nine months, I broke the scale once again.  I trained for two triathlons, ran a half marathon, and ate every salad like it was my last meal on earth.  I still had a little muffin top, but I was strong and healthy. Now I am pregnant with my third baby. Guess what? The weight is coming back on. It may have something to do with cravings for ice cream at 11 p.m., but who knows?

The other day, my neighbor came to the door. She must be a size 2. She wore skinny jeans with a belt cinched over a stylish cardigan, which accented her tiny waist. I stood there looking frumpy in my dirty sweats with a messy ponytail, a common outfit for a mother who chases down toddlers all day. I smiled and chatted, but after she left I did what any other self-assured woman would do: I walked into the pantry and downed six Oreos with a glass of milk. Maybe it is the pregnancy hormones, but I doubt it.

Comparing is a dangerous game. To take pride in being “better” at something than someone else is to fall victim to vanity. Vanity is a bad word, right up there with pride. Yet to focus on our weaknesses results in falling victim to Oreos. Or maybe self-pity. Sometime they are one and the same for me. When we pity ourselves, we sometimes think it is hopeless to even try to change. Or we criticize other people who have accomplished what we have not.

The solution is to remember we are all equally loved by Heavenly Father because we are His sons and daughters. “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10). This scripture includes all souls; not just slim souls, or witty souls, or on-time-to-church souls. We are all invited to partake of eternal life. I do not believe that our Savior, who atoned for each and every one of us, wants us to compare ourselves. To compare implies that we are in a competition. Yet the road to heaven is not a race. We should not compete with each other; we should serve each other.

We have been designed with specific strengths (and even weaknesses) so we can help each other make it to the heaven together. “For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.  To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby” (D&C 46: 11-12).  And because God loves all of us, we should love each other too.  Pure love leaves no room for jealousy and criticism.

I have friends and family who are skilled at sewing quilts, designing crafts cute enough to sell, combining mismatched clothing into fashionable ensembles, and taking professional photographs. I benefit from and am inspired by their talents. I share my gifts every time I make people laugh, sing in church, or deliver a loaf of homemade bread to a neighbor.

Whenever I begin to envy others and pity myself because they have an experience, ability, or possession I lack, I ask myself, “Would having that affect whether or not my family makes it to the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom?” If it would affect it, then I work to incorporate it into my life. If it would not, I do not worry about it.  By keeping this eternal perspective, I allow myself to be the woman who is happy with her identity simply because she is a beloved daughter of God. I am jam-packed with self-worth and recognize that my road to eternal life is specifically designed with me in mind and should not be compared to anyone else. I cheer other people on! Then I can love my baby-birthing body and talk to my neighbor while eating only two Oreos instead of six!

10 thoughts on “Dare to Not Compare

  1. I am glad I am not the only one who struggles with envy. I feel like I need to listen to Elder Holland’s and President Uchtdorf’s talks daily. I have a hard time just “stopping it”. I like your concrete suggestions.

  2. This is a beautiful post! Thank you for sharing. (And for the record, before I even started reading the post, I noticed the picture and thought you looked beautiful!) Envy has always felt like my besetting sin. I compare. All. The. Time. I compare my accomplishments (and lack of) to others… I compare my childlessness to all my friends who have kids… I compare my shape, my hair color, eye color, you name it!!! I’ve learned that for me, at least, a huge part of being happy with myself, my life, and my relationship with my Heavenly Father requires an enormous amount of mental discipline to keep my nose on my side of the fence, as it were, and stop my thoughts before they ever even have the FIRST inclination to compare. I’m not always great at it, but when I do, my life is so much more full and happy!

  3. Oreos are delicious! And some days just are 6 Oreo days.

    I’ve always envied petite people. I’ve tried to lose weight to get an obvious waist, to thin out my curves, but it just doesn’t work for me. I’ve finally come to accept that how I am built – big shoulders, no real waist, wide hips – is just as much a part of who I am as my sense of humour and love of words. No use hating it, because I’m just hating myself, and that’s pointless.

    So now I love my shoulders, because of what they bear, and what they can do. Same with all those ‘bits’ I wish were more like so-and-so’s.

    Thanks for your post – I’ll be thinking about it all day!

  4. Oh, I gain 60 lbs while pregnant, and I totally blame it on the pregnancy! I gave up dreams of being a cute, trim pregnant woman years ago! Also, I like to blame pregnancy hormones for feelings of insignificance, nobody liking me, and not-being-good-enough, which so often crop up for me during that time.

    I find that I can nip envy in the bud (usually ;), if I remember that there is a season for everything. I really do feel that I’m capable of everything I want out of life with work and patience, when the time is right.

    There are physical things (like my nose) that there’s no getting over, but my husband, kids, family and friends have all been able to look past it. I figure I can too.

    Again, somedays, I’m just down, and I try to remember that. I’m just down right now; it’s not reality.

    But, congrats on a boy! You will have a lot of fun!

  5. First, I think you’re beautiful!

    Second, pretty much everyone has body issues. I always felt dumpy and fat. Then, after getting married my husband and I spent a month backpacking and hiking. At the end of it I was skinnier than I’ve been before or since. One of my friends, who had just had her first child, visited a few days after we got back. I made sure to wear something to show off how skinny I’d become, thinking to show her I was finally not fat. She (who had always been much skinnier than me and made sure I knew it) had gained a lot of weight during her pregnancy and was…rather curvy. There are few things I’ve done of which I am less proud than rubbing my skinniness in the face of a friend in an emotionally vulnerable spot.

    Which is to say, it bites both ways.

  6. It really makes me sad when we Mormon women say such terrible things about our bodies. It’s such a weird disconnect to teach our primary children that our bodies our temples, gifts from God Himself, and then turn around and belittle that gift and proclaim that it isn’t good enough.

    For many years, I comforted myself with the notion that when I am resurrected, my body will be perfected and I will no longer have this-and-that perceived fault.

    But… what if I do? What if God’s perception of a perfected body is completely different from mine? What if those stretch marks and that wobbly belly (from creating bodies for His children) are *part* of my perfection? What if that is what makes my body so beautiful to Him?

    I cannot abide the thought of spending so much energy in this life hating the way I look, to end up with that same body for the rest of my existence. The mere thought makes me feel completely miserable.

    I have decided, that although I am considered fat by most everyone else’s standards, that I will live the Word of Wisdom and treat my body with respect and love. It’s the only one I will ever have, and I was desperate to receive it. I have so many other things to worry about right now.

    This journey to self acceptance is a long one. I am still not “there” yet. I fall victim to the world’s standards of beauty on a daily basis. But I have a goal in mind and I know that the Lord will help me get there. I am at peace… at last.

  7. I like your line about serving each other not competing with each other. I compare myself with people way too much–not appearances, achievement. I’m an oldest child of two oldest children and very type A. But I need to recognize the stewardships I have and quit coveting other peoples’ stewardships. Voltaire ends Candide with the line “We must all cultivate our own gardens.” I need to remember this. Thank you for putting a spotlight on these issues and for writing such a calm, centered and wise statement.

  8. Great post! I gained 50 with each pregnancy. Usually lost just 40 after. I have 5 kids. I’ve worked and worked to get down. I still have 20 extra, or just 10 if I realized that my age 23 body is long gone!

    Sarah-your comment was great. What if this is my perfect body? Also, remembering how anxious we were to receive what we have now. I will keep trying to be in shape, but I’ve got to drop the worry.

    KDA–I named my blog after that last line in Candide. So helpful not to compare, but to cultivate our own gardens.

    Thanks for this topic today. I’m trying to lose weight before I visit my family (my sister and I are competing…but it hasn’t gone well and I was feeling a bit discouraged, ready to go raid the pantry myself.) This post makes me want to just relax and focus on serving and loving…

  9. I was jealous of my skinny friend until one day when she told me that she wished she could gain weight because she hated always looking like an adolescent boy. I’ve since accepted that I’ll never be a size six, but getting down to a 12 is within my reach. I mainly want to have a healthy body, with all it’s bulges and lumpiness.

  10. I am pregnant as well (with a boy!) and even though I’ve gained a fairly normal amount of weight I am also about 200 pounds now. I struggle to not compare myself to others, but I think it is so hard in today’s society. I love your reference to the scripture in D&C 18:10 and your commentary on it.

    Thank you.

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