I grew up participating in countless recreational activities.  Every sport had a season, every instrument, a recital.  In spring it was soccer, where AYSO made sure that regardless of your talent level, you had a jersey and a team to play on.  In summer it was softball where the city rec leagues would throw even the most uncoordinated of us on third base.  Back to soccer in the fall and preparations were beginning for the end-of year piano recital; by that point, I can only imagine that my mother would rather get run over by a golf cart than hear my peppy, 5-fingered rendition of “Here Comes Santa Clause” one more time.  Basketball started in October and before we knew it, it was time to register for soccer.  Never.  Ending.  Cycle.

Because of this cleats-to-dress kind of lifestyle, I grew up being a sort-of “jack of all trades, master of none”.  I didn’t really have an activity of choice – I liked them all.  I was good enough to make a few school teams and not good enough to make others.  I was, in the world of athletics, an “average”.  And that was that.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that things haven’t really changed for me.  As I’ve ventured into the world of working and wife-ing and parenting, I find myself feeling very ‘average’ at most of the things I do each day.  I sew, but not well enough to make my kids wear my creations.  I garden and get frustrated by everything that dies.  As a mom, I control my temper . . . and then lock myself in the bathroom and cry for a few minutes.  You get the picture: I am an ‘average’.  And sometimes, that scares me.

That word, “average”, has come to mean something acute to leprosy.  We treat being average as a sign of laziness or as a lack of determination to live the best life we can – if I’m average, I’m failing as a person.  There are few sports teams anymore that aren’t labeled as (and expected to be) competitive; mom-ing can be equally as competitive, if not more so, with hair classes, financial seminars, home-based businesses and zoo passes; all of these things can leave us feeling a bit overwhelmed and like we should constantly be doing and being more.

I think about all those overly-exaggerated sports parents in movies that say things like, “It’s not worth winning if you can’t win big!”  (The Mighty Ducks comes to the rescue with another incredible life parallel, my friends.) and I think of what a silly message it is to not just do what you love, regardless of what other people are doing or being.  And then I take a step back and see that I’m continually holding myself back from trying new things or continuing on with things that I’m terrible at (but love), as the adversary repeatedly reminds me that I’m just not good enough . . . at any of it.

We live in a world full of comparisons – I can compare the best shoes for tennis thanks to my handy Amazon app; I can compare Mexican restaurants in my area in minutes using Google or Yelp; and I can quickly compare my “average” life to the spell-binding talents and travels of my neighbors and friends by jumping on Facebook or Instagram.  The internet is so handy!

While a thorough restaurant comparison can save your life, I don’t know that the social comparisons are always healthy.  We scroll and scroll and compare what is happening to us at that moment (remember, we’re sitting on the couch, scrolling) to everyone else’s highlights.  Because that’s what social media is – the Sports Center of the internet; we get to see all of the highlights without having to suffer through the whole game.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton spoke of comparison in his 1987 talk titled “There are Many Gifts.”  In it, he states, “One of the great tragedies of life, it seems to me, is when a person classifies himself as someone who has no talents or gifts. When, in disgust or discouragement, we allow ourselves to reach depressive levels of despair because of our demeaning self-appraisal, it is a sad day for us and a sad day in the eyes of God. For us to conclude that we have no gifts when we judge ourselves by stature, intelligence, grade-point average, wealth, power, position, or external appearance is not only unfair but unreasonable.”

Sometimes, I think we abuse the great power that we have to constantly examine other people’s lives; we use it to downplay our accomplishments or force ourselves to compete.  “I like to bake but I could never bake like so-and-so,” or “I love painting but I would be too embarrassed for people to see how awful I am,” or “Everyone is taking their kids to Disney this summer, so we should, too.”  We are so quick, too quick, to downplay our own interests and needs and focus on what others are doing that it can leave us confused and suffering when we find that we aren’t any happier after chasing our neighbor’s dreams.

An example: we all know that running is a “thing”.  People love it so much that they run incredibly long distances and put stickers on their car windows about it.  And people that love running are really persuasive.  They talk about this mysterious runner’s high and how it gives them time to think and it’s so good.  I got to a point where I saw so many people racing and stickering that I was convinced that I had to be a runner, too.  Had to.  So I ran.  I did programs that were supposed to help me find my inner running goddess and all of those things.  And you know what I discovered after six months of trying?  I hate running.  I’ve never liked it.  The only thing I think about while I’m running is how much I hate running.  It doesn’t clear my head – it makes me angry.  And tired.  I’ll run to play basketball or around bases but I just don’t like running to run.  And that’s ok.

Sometimes we feel so much pressure to love the things that the people around us love that we forget that we each have a ‘thing’ – our currency.  Each of us has something to give the world that is uniquely ours – an offering that makes us different.  We use what we have been given in exchange for the good that the world has to give us.  This is our currency.  For some it is athletic prowess, for others it is working with their hands.  Some have a knack with children while others have a special skill for teaching.

I don’t need to be good at running.  I know so many women that are incredible, talented runners – rather than feel envious of them and their talent, wouldn’t it be much easier if I would be grateful that they found their ‘thing’ and took the pressure off of me to run!?  (I’d like to personally thank each of you, actually.  Because I really, really am terrible at running.)

In D&C 46:11-12 we are taught, “For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.  To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.”  This scripture does not say, “To all is given the same gifts and thou shalt compare thyself to others,” but rather that we each are endowed with unique gifts and talents, ones that are perfect for us and have nothing to do with our neighbor’s aspirations and dreams.  I believe that our talents and interests are tailored for each of us, to bless our lives and further the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 14:12).

Elder Ashton goes on to identify some of the less-recognizable gifts that we may have to offer, ones that may not be immediately apparent when we start looking for our currency:

“…the gift of asking; the gift of listening; the gift of hearing and using a still, small voice; the gift of being able to weep; the gift of avoiding contention; the gift of being agreeable; the gift of avoiding vain repetition; the gift of seeking that which is righteous; the gift of not passing judgment; the gift of looking to God for guidance; the gift of being a disciple; the gift of caring for others; the gift of being able to ponder; the gift of offering prayer; the gift of bearing a mighty testimony; and the gift of receiving the Holy Ghost.”

As I examine my life, it is these less-recognizable gifts that have left a lasting impact on me.  The women that surround me are offering me their spiritual currency on a daily basis and I am ever grateful that they aren’t all the same.  Maybe “average” is an OK place to be – we can’t do it all and sometimes just doing our best should be all that we ask of ourselves.  But as we put our faith in the Lord and His promise to bestow unique strengths on each of us, as we work to find out what those gifts are, I know that the Lord will make them manifest in our lives and I know that He will be there to remind us how “above average” we all are in His sight.

Author.  Comedian.  Mom.  Wife.  Mormon.

Carlee Hansen is the author of “Peas are Gross” and host of “Pead in a Podcast”, a show about following your dreams and finding greatness.

Carlee spends her free time speaking about life, attitude, trials and setting goals.  If life has taught her anything, it’s that balance is the key to success and finding happiness.  Her light-hearted look at life and the struggles we all go through will leave you with a new perspective and a renewed desire for success.

Find more info and contact Carlee at www.carleehansen.com.

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