Silencing the Secret Critic

Ugh. From the frizzy flyaway hair to the previously unnoticed stain on my shirt, all I could see was a mess. I felt weak and defeated – and I had barely climbed out of bed!

It was, of course, a Sunday morning. On any other day, I might have a chance of climbing back in bed and hiding from the world. But not today.

In a few minutes, I would be walking the halls at Church and passing women who were infinitely more perfect than myself. That thought was all the prompting that my inner chatterbox required. Suddenly, I was inundated with negative self-talk: I’ll never be as pretty as Sister A. I’ll never have hair like Sister B and I’ll never be skinny like Sister Z. I’ll never have perfect clothes like Sister C. My kids will never be as well-behaved as Sister X’s kids. I’ll never understand the scriptures like Sister Y. I’ll never be good enough to be friends with Sister H. I’ll never be as wonderful or awesome as these women. What’s the point of me, anyway? I don’t even know why I try. I’ll never measure up.

I felt my self-worth shrink smaller and smaller. I felt more and more worthless, more and more inferior, more and more insecure. The thoughts that ran rampant in my mind made me feel less and less worthwhile.

“So much doubt, panic, raw impulse, and bogus conjecture stream through my mind. My soul sometimes feels like a Twitter feed where I’m following a million of the most annoying people ever, and I can’t find the Unfollow button.”  -Steven Furtick, “Crash the Chatterbox”

As I sulked in front of the mirror, my heart began to ache. I felt so convicted, so certain of my own failure. So judged.

Judgment is one of those insidious and subtle sins that creeps into our lives almost unnoticed. In fact, some of our most condemning judgments are wrapped in praise and tied with a bow of false humility. Do any of these sound familiar?

“I’ll never be as beautiful as she is.”

“My children will never be that well behaved.

“She’s so amazing – I could never do that.”

“I’m just not as talented as she is.”

 She’s so perfect – she’d never want to be friends with someone like me.”

Who said?

Often, the person we judge the harshest is ourselves. Although it sounds like praise, we’re really just putting ourselves down.

Look back at those statements – are they really about praising someone else? If they are, why do we make them all about us? What if we thought about ourselves a little less and left it at “She’s so beautiful” or “She’s talented?” Why do we have to drag ourselves and our inadequacies into it?

I’ll tell you why – because these statements aren’t about praise. They’re about judgment and judgment loves comparison. Judging someone often requires something to compare them to. Sometimes, we judge them according to an ideal. Often, we judge them according to ourselves.

When we judge someone against ourselves, we often give ourselves too little credit. Sometimes, we think that means we’re being humble. After all, it’s hard to be proud when you’re advertising your own weaknesses and shortcomings. However, these statements have nothing to do with humility. Humility is not about thinking less of ourselves – it is about thinking of ourselves less.

Instead, we hold our worst qualities up against someone else’s best qualities and wonder why we fall short. We forget about all of our goodness. We forget about the other person’s flaws. We act like our worst and their best should be completely equal and comparable.

Author Jill Savage calls this “comparing our insides to someone else’s outsides.” In Crash the Chatterbox, Steven Furtick calls this “comparing our behind-the-scenes with everybody else’s highlight reel.”

In our social media saturated culture, those comparisons are incredibly easy to make. While I sit inside my messy house, wearing my frumpy, comfy stay-at-home clothes, tuning out my five cranky kids and eating another sandwich because I was too tired to cook dinner, I can sit at my laptop and scroll through endless images of perfectly organized homes, read stories of other people’s perfectly charming children and see images of these incredibly elaborate homemade yet restaurant-quality meals. On days like that, each click and scroll of the mouse brings greater and greater condemnation. Each new post reinforces the lie that I’m a failure, failure, failure.

Ready for the ironic part?

Somewhere out there, at least one of my friends is doing the same thing. She’s sitting in her messy house, lounging in her pajamas or maybe her sweaty work clothes, eating a quick meal and trying to survive the chaos of her children, and she’s browsing through my picture-perfect posts and comments and feeling like she doesn’t measure up. We’re both in this together – condemning our behind-the-scenes, admiring the other’s highlight reel, and continuing in the circle of self-shaming and self-criticism.

I know this because I’ve seen it. Those self-condemning judgment statements above? I’ve said them to others. I’ve had others say them to me.

We all do it.

Each one of us.

And we don’t have to.

The truth – the deep down, gut-honest truth that the enemy of our souls doesn’t want us to realize – is that these comparisons don’t matter at all. We’re not on opposing teams. There isn’t a limited supply of goodness, beauty or God’s grace in this world. If you have more, it doesn’t mean I have less. That’s not how God sees us – and that’s not how we should see ourselves, either.

“Here’s the deal: God doesn’t grade on a curve. He knows you. He knows what you are capable of, what glorious love you can give, because He is your Maker.

He isn’t lining me up with everyone else and saying, “Oh, that Nicole — compared to other stay-at-home moms she’s not really measuring up.” Instead, He looks right into my own heart and says, “I know you, I know when you are giving me the real deal and when you are putting up a smoke screen. Do you recall all that stuff about knitting you together in your mother’s womb? Yep. All true. Let’s get real, and don’t worry about anyone else.” –Nicole Unice, “She’s Got Issues”

You and I don’t have to be exactly alike in order to be wonderful. Our callings, our talents and our abilities may be radically different. That doesn’t make either one of us less or more than the other. It only makes us different.

In Matthew 2:1-7, we read ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged.” How true this is! When we judge others, we often subconsciously judge ourselves as well. I don’t know about you but I hate being judged so harshly. The negative self-talk I endure after these judgments is so discouraging and overwhelming and depressing. God doesn’t judge us against our own impossible standards, so why do we insist on judging ourselves this way?

God loves you. He loves me. His love is not finite – it is infinite. It is not based on what we do – it is based on who we are. There’s nothing you can do to make Him love you more and there’s nothing you can do to make Him love you less. He doesn’t rank us. He doesn’t compare us. He doesn’t expect you to be someone else because He created you to be just who you are.

The next time that the negative self-chatter starts and you feel the urge to compare, remember this irrefutable and wonderful truth:

God did not create you to be a mediocre imitation of someone else.

He created YOU to be the best version of yourself that you can be.