By Rose Huff
The Bible says that we should not compare ourselves to others, but it's hard not to. For some of us, it starts early in life, when we think Mom or Dad likes a sibling more.
My two children once asked me which of them I loved more. I told them that I love each of them unconditionally and infinitely. They are different, of course, and there are special attributes that I really enjoy about each of them. That distinction—what I like about each of them—has no bearing on how much I love them. So I proceeded to share with them a long list of their unique individual personal attributes.
Unique personal qualities are a vital part of what makes each of us so valuable to our fellow human beings and to the whole creation. It seems to me that God created so many possibilities for personal composition that there is no one quite like you!
"Self-appraisal value helps me identify how I use my God-given personal attributes to fulfill the unique purposes God has set out for me."
Personally, I find it a relief to realize that I am whole and complete as God created me to be, realizing that, on any given factor in life—talent, finances, appearance, style, education, opportunities, ad infinitum—there will always be someone with more and someone with less.
Identifying and naming individual characteristics with my children was the beginning of helping them with self-awareness. Even as an adult, I continue to be surprised by things that others notice about me and share with me. We need input and feedback to help us improve and grow. Understanding what comes easily to us and what we find difficult based on our personal abilities is a key to successful navigation of life's many challenges.
Here is part of a personal inventory list I made:
- Things I enjoy: reading
- Things I find easy to do, but not particularly enjoyable: ironing
- Things I am pretty good at: rollerskating
- Things I am not good at, but enjoy: mathematics
- Things I must do: clean house, pay bills
- Things I strongly dislike: talking on the phone
Making the list helped illuminate my sense of self-awareness. It is an on-going, ever-growing list that changes as I change. It was a fun activity to do with my children as well. They learned that our uniqueness is not better than another's: it is just different. It also happened to be useful in the division of labor around the house.
For example, I really enjoy doing laundry, my son enjoys ironing, and my daughter likes making sure everything is put away afterward—works pretty well. At the same time, we each dislike taking out the trash, but it has to be done. There's a life lesson that must be learned—life does not give you all the things on your wish list. There are lots of things in the successful management of your day that you wish you didn't have to do, but you do it anyway. It is the practice of self-discipline.
Spending my days believing that I am, even in a small way, using the unique gifts God gave me provides me with a sense of purpose and gratitude. Each time I behave with purpose, living as the person God made me to be, I impress myself. My personal best is taken up a notch, and comparison with others is irrelevant.
When I impress myself it is impossible to have what I call low self-appraisal value. I prefer the term self-appraisal value over self-esteem because it refers to my personal inventory. Low self-esteem involves looking inward, being absorbed with personal shortcomings, real or imagined, impressing others, and contemplating your figurative navel. Self-appraisal value, on the other hand, helps me identify how I use my God-given personal attributes to fulfill the unique purposes God has set out for me in his good creation.
So instead of comparing myself with others, I make it a regular practice to impress myself. After all, I not only belong to God, I am the work of his hands, beautiful, unique and loved. Guess what? So are you. Why not impress yourself today? •
Dr. Rose Huff lives and works as an educational psychologist in Southern California.