Rejoicing in Other's Successes

An encouragement to those who compare themselves with others and feel guilty, inadequate, or insecure when others seem to "have it all together."

Rejoicing in Other's Successes
Photo by Obie Fernandez / Unsplash

by Susie Bakonis

After spending quality time with people, I often walk away intrigued and fascinated by how uniquely gifted God has made each person. I am thankful to see the way they view life differently and the way they do things, even when it’s better than me. It’s refreshing, enriching, and supremely satisfying.

But it’s a shame when women express to me how they feel guilty, inadequate, and insecure when they see others doing so well and “have it all together.” They share candidly how discouraging it feels to see others bestowed with disproportionately greater talents, skills, and intelligence. I appreciate their honesty, courage, and trust as they share their experiences with me because I know it’s extremely HARD to be so real and vulnerable.

For the women in my life who have expressed these feelings of guilt, I know that they wholeheartedly desire to be able to celebrate the giftedness of their family, friends, and acquaintances. Yet I know they struggle to do so because seeing other’s doing so well is such a painful reminder to them of how they are falling short and how they are failing in so many areas of life.

I’m not here to condemn or judge you if you fall in this camp. I’m know I’M not above experiencing those same feelings. I know the battle is real, and I know it’s difficult because I’ve had seasons where I’ve battled those feelings as well. I know what it’s like to think, “I’m not enough” or “I’m incompetent”. I understand how oppressive and frustrating it can be when my sinful struggles keep me from feeling enriched and built up in my relationships instead of feeling dejected and ashamed of myself.

While I’m far from being immune from falling into this same struggle again, I have experienced much freedom and liberation in this area of my life in the recent years, so I want to share some thoughts and encouragements on how you too can redeem your relationships with others for the glory of God, how you your joy can be restored, and how you can be set free from any “Facebook post envy”, “Instagram/Pinterest-induced depression”, or from feeling dejected and ashamed after spending time with somebody who appears to be succeeding in every area of life.

1. Don’t put up your guard when you see others’ successes.

Observe and appreciate how others are made. If you struggle with this, ask and pray to God for a pure heart to rejoice and celebrate the unique giftedness of your friend. Try not to reference back to yourself and how it makes you look or how it makes you feel badly, reference back to God and how it makes him look as the Creator God who uniquely made each person.

2. Accept who you are.

Learn to “live into your strengths” and cultivate those strengths. It’s wonderfully freeing to know you aren’t trying to be someone you are not, but that you are being who you were uniquely made to be. I liken it to fashion sense and style. I love this quote from Stacey London

“Never confuse fashion with style. Fashion relies on unattainable looks on women with unrealistic bodies. Style is about utilizing the best aspects of you.”

As with style-- grace and poise are qualities that characterize a person who understands their strengths and assets and uses the best aspects of themselves. It’s wonderfully refreshing to be around those who humbly focus on cultivating who they uniquely are and don’t spend a lot of time lamenting over who or what they are not.

3. Realize nobody really has it “all together.”

If you spend a lot of time with the person and it still seems like they have it all together, ask yourself if you are creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. We learn from psychology that as emotional humans, we aren’t always the best information gatherers. We tend to have a confirmation bias--if we think they are doing great, our eyes are drawn to details that confirm that. I’m not sure how I ended up being sort of the opposite, but I have sort of an opposite confirmation bias—for better or worse. I have a tendency to think, “you probably don’t have it together…life is so hard, it’s impossible for anybody to have it together”.

I find that since that is my confirmation bias, I tend to learn a lot more about people that help me see that while they are succeeding in one area of life, they are struggling a lot in other areas of life. My theory is that this helps foster intimacy in relationships. How? I think people can sense when their successes aren’t appreciated and celebrated, but that they serve as a barrier or that others find it to be a threat. That, I think, naturally would hinder a more intimate relationship. My personal experience is that when people sense that you can celebrate and relish in their giftedness, it fosters a great sense of intimacy and trust that you are sincerely “for them” instead of “about you”.

4. Know who you are.

It’s a huge temptation for us to compare ourselves to others when we are unclear about who we are and what we are about (our life intentions). For years I wasted my life away, always feeling busy, exhausted, and overwhelmed and always feeling like I was living life flying by the seat of my pants. It seemed to me too, that my daily activities I was so consumed with, bared little reflection and resemblance to the things that truly mattered most to me in this life.

Two books provided a lot of practical help and guidance for how to flesh out my convictions about how I wanted to live my life before God.

The big takeaway points contained between the two books are:

  1. Be super selective and picky about the handful of things (no more than 3-5 big picture priorities) you choose to wrap your life around
  2. Pursue these things with laser intense focus.
  3. Maintain focus on these essential priorities of your life by frequently saying no to lesser priorities that don’t directly relate to your main 3-5 life priorities.
  4. Maintain focus on these essential priorities by setting goals for these priorities and writing out specific actionable goals for each of these areas of focus.

Example: One of top 5 priorities in my life are my kids. Among the goals I’ve set for this one area of focus are:

Goal 1: Physical/basic needs met

Actionable bite-sized goals:

  • Feed kids 3 nutritious meals a day (this entails forthought/planning, grocery shopping, food prepping, and cleaning)
  • Make sure they are clothed and make sure they take care of their hygiene
  • Make sure they have good routines in place and live in an environment that allows them to enjoy order, stability, and sufficient physical rest.
  • Shuttle kids to and from school and other extracurricular activities

Goal 2: Quality time with kids

Actionable bite-sized goals:

  • Dinner as a family at the table every night
  • Read 3-5 books each day to each child  (to ensure at least 15-20 minutes of undivided attention is given to each child since I can’t practically promise them endless amounts of undivided attention each day)
  • Three times out of the week we have “cuddle time” at bedtime for about 20-30 minutes with our kids (Adam and I divide and conquer) and just spend time talking to our kids about whatever they want to talk about as we are snuggling with them in bed.

Goal 3: Biblical instruction

Actionable bite-sized goals:

  • Serving in CM to have a better idea about the lessons they are being taught and the friends they are     making so that we can better engage our kids.
  • Reading 2 chapters of an age-appropriate bible each day
  • Character definition memorization to help kids “put on” godly traits and “put off” sinful habits for character training.
  • Praying with our children at bedtime.
  • Exposing them to educational materials that help them build a strong biblical world-view (whether it be some classical education homeschooling materials, history textbooks through Answers In Genesis ministry, or through reading up and familiarizing ourselves on hot apologetics topics like creation/evolution, pro-life/pro-choice, biblical roles/current gender identity hot topics, the history of Christianity/Christian history portrayed by secular historians with possible anti-religious bias)
  • As part of the above goal—trying to expose the kids to hard questions about the bible so that they know they can ask tough questions and know there is no fear that Bible will not stand up to scrutiny.

Generally speaking, you will find that an intentional choice to wrap your life around what Crystal Paine calls “your best stuff list” will occupy so much of your time and energy (not to mention joy/purpose) that you will be less tempted toward comparing your life with others. The example I gave is only one of five areas of focus in my life and yet I would say it already consumes more than a fifth of my daily tasks and more than a fifth of my bandwidth! As you begin to plug away at your main areas of focus with “laser intensity”—it becomes clear that there is not a moment to be wasted on comparing ourselves with others. It’s just futile to spend precious moments of our lives this way.

5. Let God define your worth.

Whenever I enter into my moments where I have a crisis of identity, Genesis 1:27 and Psalm 139:13-14 are two set of Bible verses that comfort me and remind me that in spite of how I feel, I should praise God for I am fearfully and wonderfully made and trust that He has a redeeming purpose for my life. My very worth is rooted in the very fact that I am made in the image of God.

If you find yourself struggling with comparison, my sincere prayer is that the Word will set you free and that God will help you find victory in this struggle soon!