Though some might look at my life’s journey and consider it great, I am unfortunately more attuned to what I do not have than to what I have. Many times I would have traded my years of single adventures for a family, and my drivenness for a more relaxed life. Certain events I wish had never occurred, and other hoped-for events or opportunities I wish would just happen.
Suffice it to say, I have spent time and energy in negative thoughts about my life and my future, often brought on by playing the “comparison game.” You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all played it. We look at someone else’s life, whether she is a close friend, an acquaintance, or a hero, and we play the game. We compare ourselves to her, and end up on the losing end. We’ve invented the game, choose to play it against someone else, and then we lose and feel badly. We do it to ourselves.
I could have entitled this section, “do not compare yourself,” or “flee perfectionism,” but “embrace your own unique journey” is broader and more positive. Embrace it, just because it is yours. It is the unique one God has given you. Rather than thinking about others, refocus to understand and embrace your journey—its past, present and future. Rather than thinking about what you don’t have, think about what you do have—gratitude without comparison is a recipe for joy and happiness. Deeply experience and embrace your own journey.
I noted earlier that I am the only woman of the seventeen faculty members in the College of Bible and Christian Ministry. I began teaching with only a masters’ degree in a profession that requires a Ph.D. My research interests include ritual and womanhood, while theirs do not.
I do not fit in. When I started teaching, I looked at others’ success, and wanted to teach like them in order to achieve the same success. I tried to present at the same conferences and compete in the same areas, since that was the pattern for my profession. After failing in the areas they succeeded, I finally sat back and decided that I was not hired to be (insert colleague’s name), but rather to be the best Amy Davis that I could be.
This allows me to respect and appreciate my own journey, focusing on mine rather than on others’. It also helped me appreciate my colleagues’ individuality and their professional journeys. Though I could learn from them, I was not to compare myself or try to be someone else. I am an individual in my profession; I am different and that is good. Because I know few like me, I must blaze my own path rather than follow others’ lead, but that is exciting and adventurous and not frightening or bad, if I choose the positive perspective. I am choosing to embrace my professional journey not in spite of its unusual qualities, but because it is unusual and because it is my unique gift from God. I will find my way.
Comparing myself and perfectionism in my career is not as destructive as in my personal life. I am guilty of playing the “comparison game” with other women with regard to friendships (I never seem to have enough), dating, marriage, physical strength, beauty—you name it, and I’ve compared. And lost. Every time. She always has/is more (insert anything) than I have/am. The comparison never did me any good.
Few areas were greater ones of comparison than in my love life. Though, as I mentioned earlier, I wanted to be married after college, I was single until the age of 39, and though I generally did not want others’ particular husbands, dogs, houses, and children, I wanted their lives. Mine felt empty, isolated, and somehow “less.” My journey felt somehow broken, but the lyrics Rascal Flatts popularized rang true and encouraged me even when I felt lack. “God Bless the Broken Road” is about how disappointments and heartbreak in the relationship journey finally led to lifetime love. It gives meaning to all things that don’t lead to “happily ever after,” because without those transformational disappointments, the road would not lead to the lifetime lover.
I even think this sentiment can be generalized—that long lost dreams can lead us to fulfillment in never-before-thought-of dreams, that sadness can lead us to joy, and that God blesses that which is broken. Now, when I look back on my life, it seems to be a straight line—I can see how so many events led to the next and to the next, and finally to where I am, whether in my career or my personal life. In the midst of it, though, I remember losing time comparing and punishing myself for not being perfect. Time that could have been spent embracing my journey and living it well, even though it was different from others’.
Throughout the journey of womanhood, remember your individuality. Do not measure success based on others’ journeys; do not become obsessed with wanting what others have. Those habits lead to discontented inadequacy and depression. Name what you have as good, and even when it’s pimply and sometimes downright bad, trust that God is leading you. Make it your habit to embrace the journey your Creator is walking with you.
Excerpted from The Book of Womanhood
 Hummon, Boyd, and Hanna, “God Bless the Broken Road.”