Three months ago, I learned a new word. I think. Honestly, the meaning is still vague, but when a conference speaker sketched a simple box with four quadrants that she called a rubric, it struck a nerve. It's an assessment that shows how well we meet our standards. If your dot is plotted in the upper right box (the higher the better) your assessment matches the standard; your confidence soars, and you're queen for the day. The opposite is true if you land in the lower left quadrant (the lower the worse), leaving a sinking feeling of failure that permeates pretty much every aspect of your life.
As she spoke, my mind drifted. A mental checklist - not as a leader, but as a woman - overtook my thoughts. The musing went something like this:
The day starts at 6 a.m. with a calorie-disintegrating spin class, a liter of water, and a protein shake. Lunch is a salad and another eight ounces. By seven, my favorite pair of jeans and fitted black turtleneck slip on flawlessly, a good hair day gets better and with a dab of lip gloss, I can't wait to cozy up in a dark booth and enjoy the intimacy of a night with the girls. For a reason I can't define, but also can't deny, these evenings are made sweeter when I like how I look. This is a magic, upper-right-hand-quadrant kind of night. The standards are high, but my assessment's a near match.
And then the rubric makes a violent shift.
When I arrive, I see a woman I don't recognize - a friend of a friend whose striking appearance dampens my mood. It isn't until charm and intellect exceed her beauty that I actually start to hate her. Only it's not her I hate, it's me. My mirror morphs into carnival glass, and in an instant, I'm freefalling to the lower left side of the rubric, hanging on by the skin under my nails. I have to resist the urge to let go.
Driving home, the real self-loathing begins. Not because I didn't measure up (although, I fleetingly imagine plastic surgery to be a justifiable option), but because I know better. I know that comparison is a black hole of inadequacy, that there is not a more beautiful identity than fearfully and wonderfully made, that being bought at a price is the greatest expression of worth the world has ever known. I know that Jesus sacrificed so that the standard for which I intrinsically strive would be erased as a gift of grace, and his ultimate assessment of me will be couched in merciful, unconditional love.
And yet it never ceases to amaze me how we - smart, capable women - screw this up.