I recently chatted with my friend, and author of the newly released book The Burden of Better, Heather Creekmore on an episode of Your Hope-Filled Perspective Podcast (How To Stop Comparing Yourself to Others – Episode 77.) Who isn’t always striving to be better in one area or another in our lives? At times I’ve been consumed by the burden of better with respect to being a better mom, a better wife, a better doctor, a better writer, etc. We had a great conversation but barely skimmed the surface so I asked Heather to share more here.
Read to the end for a book giveaway!
Releasing the Ideal Me
by Heather Creekmore
From the other room, I heard my children open and close the fridge door and shuffle through cardboard boxes in the pantry. They’re hungry. Again. (It’s been like a whole half-hour since they ate.) As they grab for another granola bar, I add a checkmark to my “Mom Fail list.”
I’ll be honest, I long to be a perfect mom—the homemade chicken nuggets and Bible-themed crafts—kind of perfect mom. This mom in my head, she always has healthy snacks at the ready. She gets home from Costco, cleans and cuts eighty pounds of vegetables, then places them into glass storage containers (no BPA here, folks). Some days, she treats her offspring to baked goods—fashioned from combinations of organic oats, raw honey, and fruits she dehydrated herself.
But I’m not a perfect mom. I’m just an average mom. That ideal mom in my head, she’s a goal I chase but never catch. And I’ve found in my years of working with women on the issues of comparison and body image that sometimes it’s not comparison with others that keeps us trapped, it’s our ideals.
Compared to Me?
I meet many women who share with me a similar sentiment. “I don’t compare myself to others,” they insist. “I just compare myself to the self I want to be.” (That’s a mouthful.)
What they’re saying is that it’s not that they feel like they can’t keep up with Sara down the street. Rather, it’s that they can’t keep up with the person—be it the mom, wife, or woman—they wish they could be. They say things like, “I can’t live up to my own standards.” Or, “I don’t measure up to what and who I wanted to be.” Or sometimes they lament, “I just want to be more like I used to be.”
Simply put: it’s called idealization. Sometimes when we idealize someone else it can more aptly be classified as objectification. These are the situations where we idealize and project other positive attributes onto a person just because she has a hot body or fabulous career. But other times we just park our trailer in the land of self-idealization. Our engines stall and we never leave, because it’s too heavy a weight for us to haul.
When a woman tells me she doesn’t compare herself to celebrities or other people, just to the “me” she wants to be, my first question is always: Where did this “ideal self” come from?
If you stop and pray about where your “ideal self” concepts came from, I bet you’ll find the same truth I did. They weren’t actually in me; they were inspired by an outside force and, somewhere along the way, adopted as my own. Chances are, your expectations are influenced more by outside forces than you realize. Truth is, comparing our current selves to our “former” selves or “ideal” selves isn’t really that different from other types of comparison that we know harm us.
Idealism Is Idolatry
Why is idealism so dangerous? Because when we idealize, we idolize.
The truth is, that perfect mom I fantasize about isn’t just an ideal—she’s an idol. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t sacrifice Costco chicken nuggets to her statue on my lawn. (Frankly, we have no nuggets to spare.) Modern-day idolatry doesn’t look like Old Testament idolatry. In his book Counterfeit Gods, Timothy Keller explains more about modern-day idols: “An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.’” (Well said, Mr. Keller).
Recognizing this, sometimes women ask me a related question: “Heather, I know it’s wrong to strive like this. So, how do I just accept myself? Shouldn’t I want to like who I am?”
The Idol of Self
Answering this tricky question requires us to see how idealization can put us in the dangerous position of idolizing our own opinions and ourselves. God never commands us to try to keep ourselves happy. Though our culture has practically made self-acceptance a threshold for mental health, the Bible says something different. In 1 Corinthians 4:3, Paul shares that he doesn’t even judge himself. In other words, his opinion of himself (read: self-acceptance) doesn’t matter as much as God’s opinion of him. Living to please ourselves or trying to become our ideal in order to make ourselves happy, serves the god of self, not the God of the universe.
Comparison can fuel both idealism and idolatry. When we rely on our expectations or ideals to satisfy us, we’re never able to rest. Comparison can only be overcome by God’s grace, not through achieving our ideal. Knowing this good truth takes the weight off of us and allows us to experience freedom in Christ!
(Excerpts of this post were taken from The Burden of Better: How a Comparison-Free Life Leads to Joy, Peace, & Rest by Heather Creekmore (Leafwood Press, September 2020). Learn more or read an excerpt of the book here.)
About Heather Creekmore
Heather Creekmore writes and speaks hope to thousands of women each week inspiring them to stop comparing and start living. Her first book Compared to Who? encourages women to uncover the spiritual root of body image issues and find freedom. Her new release, The Burden of Better, offers women a journey into the depths of God’s grace to find a way off the treadmill of constant comparison. Heather has been featured on Fox News, Huff Post, Morning Dose, Church Leaders, For Every Mom, along with dozens of other shows and podcasts. But she’s best recognized from her appearance as a contestant on the Netflix hit show, Nailed It. Heather and her fighter-pilot-turned-pastor husband, Eric have four children and live in Austin, Texas. Or, connect with Heather on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest or through her blog or podcast.
In conjunction with this post and the podcast interview, How To Stop Comparing Yourself to Others – Episode 77, Heather Creekmore is giving away a free copy of her book, The Burden of Better: How a Comparison-Free Life Leads to Joy, Peace, & Rest.
Leave a comment below sharing with us one thing you learned about releasing your “ideal” self and you will be entered into the contest.
You could also share this blog post on Facebook or Twitter then comment here to tell us where you shared it and you’ll also be entered into the drawing.
The winner will be selected at random and announced next Monday, October 12, 2020, here on this post. Continental United States only.
(If there are affiliate links in this post, meaning, if you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no extra cost to you)).