Comparison is one of the reasons I have always hated updating my resume. Every experience, reduced to a few paragraphs of buzzwords, always seemed inadequate. Small. Devoid of name brands and household names, unimpressive and incapable of impressing upon a casual reader how much time and devotion comprised each activity described in those bullet-pointed lists. The Christian activities, especially, though they’d so enriched my time in college, seemed tiny and quaint to lay before my usually secular audience.
The farther up I’ve moved in my education and career, the more embarrassed I’ve felt of a resume that seems less and less impressive compared to those of my colleagues. To send it along to strangers at the other end of a fellowship application always felt like throwing open a closet jammed full of knockoff purses.
Please, let’s not look too closely at my Louis Yuitton handbag . . .
And then someone in the Silicon Valley had a brilliant idea: why don’t we all put our resumes online for public viewing? We’ll call it . . .LinkedIn.
Until recently, I procrastinated completing my profile. Last month, I finally logged on to the website and began the sordid process of filling out my “Experiences.” It was every bit as terrible as I’d been dreading, and only made worse by the ease with which I could browse the trophy cases of my peers.
Women in general often struggle with feelings of inadequacy, especially in the professional sphere. In her 2013 book Lean In, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg devotes an entire chapter to the feelings of fraudulence and illegitimacy that can hold back even famously successful women — ladies like Sandberg and Tina Fey — from “sitting at the table” in their careers. Sandberg’s answer in the book, and the answer the secular world might offer, is that we ought to swallow our feelings of inadequacy; sit at the table anyway! That’s what men do!
And to some extent, she’s correct — men do approach their careers with more confidence than women, and often that confidence serves them well. But is the answer to our insecurities really a bigger dose of ego?
Recently, God has been showing me that the way he has for us is neither overconfidence in our successes nor debilitating under-confidence as a result of lack of success.
I should confess now that I’m a second year dental/medical student at Harvard, possibly the worst place in the world to go to school if you’re insecure about your accomplishments and prone to compare yourself with others. And I know from talking with my classmates that I’m not the only one who feels this way.
Recently, when one classmate was marveling that another had ever felt insecure about her accomplishments — and indeed it was surprising, knowing what I knew about said accomplishments — it occurred to me that perhaps the cure for so-called lack of success was not, in fact, more success.
For in addition to making me feel terrible, updating my resume generally also spurred a frenzy of trying to Do More Things, initiate more projects, anything to have something more impressive to write down.
And yet, here was a classmate with far more success than I might ever have, and she too could not seem to be successful enough to feel secure. Furthermore, if people like Tina Fey or Sheryl Sandberg still felt that same sense of smallness despite their vast accomplishments, what hope was there for peons like me?
Instead, I have come to recognize something that I should have realized all along; at the top of the academic or corporate ladder is just another ladder — ladders upon ladders without end. But where the god of success offers only more ladders, God has made the descent for us and fulfilled the deeper longing that our desire for success betrays — a desire to know that our lives are significant, meaningful, and valuable.
In his willingness to sacrifice his one and only precious son for us, God communicates to us that regardless of the brilliance of our resumes or lack thereof, we are significant. We have meaning. We are valuable and loved.
As a recent demonstration of this love, God has shown me a better way to approach my resume. Because after floating back to earth from these lofty theological truths, I still have a screen of blanks to face, whether on Microsoft Word or LinkedIn.
But the truth is, he has given me deeply fulfilling experiences, including opportunities to get a college and graduate education and to be part of projects which do his work, whether in formal ministry, academia, or the marketplace. Thus each paragraph penned and each blank filled in my CV is an opportunity to give thanks to God rather than to compare and complain.
After all, the most important credential has already been fulfilled by Jesus—that of being God’s perfect servant and beloved child—so that I too can share in this most important of Experiences, one which truly can never be adequately captured by a bullet-point list.