The world does not need you to jump into a mold. We need you to be you. And, come on, isn't this the easiest possible thing to live out in our real lives? (BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!)
In my prep for a talk last year on the subject "Free To Be Who God Created You To Be," I asked myself this question:
WHY IS IT SO FREAKING HARD TO BE MYSELF?
The global, umbrella answer to this is simple. We are different from each other. It is hard to be me when other people are walking around being NOT me. There is tension when we recognize our differences. Paul describes this in 1 Corinthians 12. The eye knows it sees - it is it's job to SEE. But it notices the ear is hearing and there is tension in noticing the other part of the body doing something different. Tension is UNCOMFORTABLE, and for many of us (ME!) our instinct is to react badly to it.
With help from friends, I examined common, unhealthy reactions to this tension and broke those reactions into three areas. First:
COMPARE & COMPETE
A couple of years ago, The B (my seven year old) and I stayed with a friend while her husband was out of town. It was like a grown-up slumber party. This friend is THE most extroverted person I know and as the days went by, I started recognizing how she is connecting by text or phone calls or visits or whatever with 10-15 different people every day. She’s coaching and encouraging and helping resolve conflicts, or she's just connecting and keeping those lines of communication open. I'm observing this, and I’m thinking how amazing she is, and I should have stopped with that observation.
But I kept thinking. Should I be doing what she is doing? I’m extremely introverted, so it wouldn’t be to her scale of connectedness, but I thought, should I be doing more? And as I thought about doing more, I almost immediately got defensive - even the idea of increasing my level of connection overwhelmed me. Soon, after like two milliseconds of overthinking, I was upset and off balance, feeling a strange combination of guilt and self-pity. I took the tension of being with someone who is different from me and in that tension I chose to compare. In a blink, I felt the tension, reacted to it, and lost my confidence.
. . .
It's bad enough when someone is doing life in general differently from me, but when they are doing the same thing in a different way, comparison can morph into it's uglier and more damaging cousin COMPETITION.
You're parenting differently? You're staying at home while I work? You're doing the same job but making more money? You're writing too, huh? Cue competition.
I tell myself I'm doing it better or "right," and, well, bless your little heart for trying. Or I tell myself you're doing it better and immediately change my methods (only to change them again when I observe someone else doing it even better). Or I come up with a list of excuses for why I can't do what you're doing the way you're doing it - your life is easier, things just go your way, you have resources I don't have, blah blah blah.
I CAN (WE CAN) CHOOSE A DIFFERENT REACTION.