Sometimes, I hear voices. In my head.

It really isn’t multiple voices, it is one small voice that I’ve come to recognize as my own personal little Debbie Downer who loves to tell me all the ways in which I don’t measure up.

Ms. Downer was out in full force this weekend. As my husband told me he liked my shirt, I heard her whisper, “Well, that shirt would be MUCH cuter if you lost ten pounds.” Gee, thanks Debbie.

Later that day, when my husband complimented me on how I handled a difficult parenting moment, Ms. Downer made a completely inappropriate and rather snide remark about the dishes piled in the sink.

After listening to Ms. Downer for much of the weekend, it wasn’t until I was standing at my vanity Sunday morning, intently focused on applying eyeliner, that I finally realized what was going on.

I immediately put Ms. Downer’s voice on mute.

I’m a talented woman with a lot to offer the people in my life and the world in general, but I am also a woman who has shortcomings, weaknesses, and “stuff” to work on.

It’s when I start to compare one of my weak areas to someone who excels in that same area that I get lopsidedly negative in my view of myself.

As I pondered this balance between acknowledging and working on my shortcomings versus fixating on them to the detriment of my self-esteem, I was gently reminded of how very far I’ve come in some of my “weak” areas.

Instead of comparing our weaknesses with others’ strengths, let’s compare our current selves to our past selves. It is through this lens that we can work to improve and move forward in our weaknesses — without the discouragement of unfair comparisons to others.

Ask God whether there is an area of weakness in your life where you need to refocus your attention on your past self rather than on how your girlfriend, your neighbor, or your co-worker performs in that area.

Lord, help us learn to recognize the critical voice of comparison. Refocus our attention on our own journey and on our own strides to improve in our areas of struggle. Amen.