I grew up in the shadow of my sister who was 18 months older than me. I followed her around, copying her every preference and obeying her every request. She convinced me that her likes and dislikes, friends and fashions were the best and only choices possible for me. When she was 16, she got married, leaving me wondering who I was without her.
Perhaps like me, you habitually compare yourself with others, find yourself lacking and stop trying to succeed. Stuck in comparison mode, we can never develop into the one-of-a-kind person God created in his image. God doesn’t create clones. When we measure ourselves against others, all we see are our weaknesses. Our uniqueness hides from others and ourselves. St. John Paul II wrote about this,
We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son Jesus.
Learning the truth
I didn’t get over my attachment to my sister for a long time because I didn’t realize that, before I was born or even conceived, God loved me! Learning that truth did something the most expensive makeover or self-improvement program could never do. It changed my self-image by giving me the ability to see myself in the image of Jesus.
Like me, God created you in his image by placing his heart and soul within you. He delights in who you are and even counts every hair on your head. Think about that when you comb your hair. He takes pleasure in every aspect of your body and your soul.
God loves you so much that when he looks at you, he sees nothing but joy and holiness and goodness and kindness and courage and faithfulness! All these virtues he planted in your heart so you could become his image, not a clone of someone else he created.
He formed you out of love so you could love him. He redeemed you so you might remain in this loving relationship for all eternity with him. Your purpose is to know him, love him, adore him and serve him with all your heart just as the Father and Son know, love, adore and serve each other. Through the gift of his Spirit, God makes it possible for you to enter into this sphere of loving that the Father and the Son enjoy, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Even while he transforms you, the world tempts you to find your identity in who you admire or who makes you feel good. So it is invaluable to find your identity in Christ. He designed you to show the world a glimmer of his image. Only you can shine his presence in this dark world in the unrepeatable way he fashioned you to express his love. You reflect his divinity through your authentic humanity centered in him.
Become truly human
We become most truly human in the measure in which we go out of ourselves and give ourselves for the sake of others.
How can we do what Saint John Paul II said and give ourselves away so we can become who God meant for us to be?
Jesus gave us the answer: Love each other as he loves us. Help each other, support each other, talk with each other, pray for each other, encourage each other, need each other. We find our true selves as we give away the life of Christ in us. This is how we stop being who we were and become who we are.
How does imitating others keep you from finding your unique identity in God?
(© 2014 revised 2017 Nancy H C Ward)