“Did you see this post?” I said, riddled with anxiety and an obvious jealousy that I was trying to mask in my voice. I showed her the picture, and waited for the necessary, “It’s okay, you’re still better than her,” response that you expect from a loyal bestie. But even with her reassurance, I still mulled over the image in my mind and pondered what I could do to be funnier, stronger, more successful, thinner, wiser, and even, “more godly” than her.
This isn’t an isolated incident; this is the way women interact and often, set their goals. We outline impossible standards based on comparison instead of real desire. Whenever we see someone else celebrate a big win in their life, we begin to analyze the highs and lows of our own journey and ask ourselves if our moments “measure up.” This outlook is marked by what author Stephen Covey calls a scarcity mentality:
The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life. People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit— even with those who help in the production. They also have a hard time being genuinely happy for the other people.
The Abundance Mentality, on the other hand, flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth or security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in the sharing of prestige, recognition, profits and decision-making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.
In a nutshell? Someone else’s success does not threaten mine, as Lysa Terkeurst says in her book, Uninvited. But here’s the thing, it’s only fun to imagine a world where everyone is successful when you’re getting a gold medal, too. Life doesn’t work that way. Your good season usually won’t line up with your best friend’s. Your biggest area of struggle may be the strongest asset of your coworker. If there’s truly enough success to go around, why does it usually feel like it’s getting doled out at different times?
I wish I had an actual answer to that question, but I think that, in my life, God typically uses my insecurities to highlight a larger truth about what I believe and where I put my value. When someone else’s marriage looks perfect, I scrutinize my own relationship. When someone else’s business takes off, I question God’s provision. When I feel like I deserve more because I’ve worked harder, I doubt my own worth and ability.
Worst of all, when I question God’s blessings in someone else’s life, I am giving myself the authority to deem what they need and deserve. Living this way is exhausting, unsustainable, and ultimately distracts from everything that God has for me to focus on. I’m going to miss the lessons from my failures and the joy from my successes if I constantly compare them to something better or different through the lens of insecurity. It’s impossible to chart my own course when I’m too busy reading somebody else’s road map.
If money made you happy and being skinny made you whole, then maybe our desires wouldn’t leave us parched and grasping for anything with substance. The scarcity mentality robs more joy from my life than my actual failures do. As we begin the new year, it is so apparent to me that gratefulness is not just about acknowledging the good God has done in your life; it’s about learning to live in a way that celebrates other people without first tearing yourself down.