Not the Top, but the Next Top {a word on comparisons}

{first day of preschool}

I picked Brylee up from preschool today and her teacher was talking with another parent about the kids working on their reading today. This teacher has a class of 4-year-olds on Tuesdays/Thursdays (Brylee's class), and a class of 5-year-olds Mondays/Wednesdays. By their second year, the 5-year-olds are doing basic reading before they get to kindergarten. I'm very happy with the teacher and what she does.

As we were getting ready to leave, she stopped me to comment about how well Brylee is doing.

"Brylee's doing great! She's in the next top group." I wasn't really following what she meant, and I think she could tell. She explained, "There's two in the class that pick everything up {finger snaps} like that. Then there are three--Brylee and two others--that are the next group that get it pretty quick, too."

Oh, Brylee, you come by it honestly.

That's the story of my life. I've never been in the "top," just always in the "next top." Or sometimes even the next-next top, depending on how many people I'm being compared to. I can't help but wonder, what happens when we make comparisons and state observations like this so early on? If she hears an analysis like this, will that effect how she perceives herself or what effort she is willing to put?

I don't think I was four when I realized where I stood on the awesomeness ratings, but I definitely knew by six or seven. During first and second grade one friend always did everything faster and better. He was finished with his reading assignments first and finished his tests first and always did it right the first time. Even though I did above average, I wasn't the top because this classmate had already taken that designation--I was "the next top." (There were only five of us.) And so it went for the rest of my education.

Not the top, but the next top.

Comparisons aren't limited to academics. Athleticism, outgoingness (and thus friendliness), physical features (and thus attractiveness), creativity. These differences aren't a problem by themselves. We are all so different in many ways and that's exactly what makes each one of us special. It's how these harmless "observations" are stated that can be an issue. Even if unintentionally, comparisons often come out to make one worse than the other.

If I could teach Brylee

how to deal with comparisons

made of herself against others, I might tell her two things:

{1} Remember what you're good in.

There is inevitably something that you shine in. Learn what that is. If it's something you enjoy, then spend time on it and do it well. Learn to accept compliments and not make others that aren't as good at it feel badly. Be encouraging and uplifting and humble and thankful for the special gifts God has given you. Return the gift by using your talents for Him.

{2} Don't be ignorant about what you don't excel in.

Part of being awesome is knowing honestly in what areas you don't naturally excel. Don't dwell on this or let it distract you from pursuing what you enjoy and what you do well in. Instead, allow this knowledge to empower you to make decisions that will keep your weaknesses from handicapping you. Get help when you need help, or practice and make extra effort when improvements are needed. Then learn to let the rest go. You can't be everything for everyone, so know the difference between making realistic adjustments to become better, and pursuing impossible expectations to be perfect. Above all, know Who uses your weaknesses for His glory. Seek God first and He will take your weakness and make it strength.

I love you, Brylee, and I think God has made you awesome in every way!