Comparison. None of us can escape it. Unless you live under a rock. Our current culture sets us up for it, and we dive right into comparison, every time we hop on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or whatever the favored social media spot is. I know I can be having a perfectly fine day, feeling very content, and then I get on social media. As I scroll through posts and pics – #myhusbandisthebest, #mykidsloveme, #greatestvacationever, #newcar, #ihavetheperfectlifeandyoudont – my mood changes instantly. Has that ever happened to you? All of a sudden, the life you were feeling grateful for ten minutes ago, doesn’t seem like enough in comparison to your #friendsandfollowers.
Why do we torture ourselves with comparisons of our relationships with our children, our marriages, our jobs, our gifts, talents, and abilities, how we spend our free time, our lives in general, to others? The act of comparing itself is about examining similarities and differences, and in some ways, this is innate in us as human beings. It’s normal to look around and see how the next guy is doing. To not be interested in the lives of others, is somewhat…well, narcissistic. And that’s not healthy either. But there’s a difference between comparing ourselves to others, and caring about others. The natural tendency to compare can be a helpful exercise in improving ourselves; our character, our health, our relationships, our performance, our quality of life. Helpful that is, if we are comparing ourselves to ourselves, our own abilities and desires to achieve and grow as human beings. Our own best, not someone else’s. Your best is not my best. We are different. When we disregard our differences, and start down the road of measuring ourselves against others, feelings of low self-worth and self-debating messages of I’m not good enough begin to play in our heads. Like a tape recorder, every time you compare yourself to someone else, you hit rewind and play again.
Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Boy, he got that right! When you compare yourself to others, you set yourself up feelings of worthlessness to invade every cell in your psyche. Truth will always set us free, so here’s the truth: there will always be someone with a better, or bigger whatever (fill in the blank) than you – better marriage, better relationship with their kids, better job, better body, better family, better friends, bigger house, bigger car, bigger financial portfolio, bigger ego. J (I couldn’t help myself). The list goes on and on…and here is another related truth: there will also always be someone with a lesser, or smaller whatever than you. So if you look at it that way, you always have something to be grateful for. While we’re being honest, you and I both know that we only post the #goodstuff. Most people don’t brag on social media when they’re having a bad day. And we all have them. Let’s not forget that social media doesn’t showcase the whole picture, so when we compare ourselves to one another, it’s often against an incomplete portrait of someone’s life.
Hope whispers, embrace your uniqueness.
When I focus on what I have, instead of what I don’t have, and who I am at the moment, instead of who I think I should be, I experience contentment. When I am comparing, it’s hard to be content. Or to feel gratitude. That’s why there is an absence of joy when we compare ourselves to others. Even when we compare ourselves to ourselves, the person we are vs. the person we want to be, we need to give ourselves grace and room to grow. We need to be gentle with ourselves. Comparison can be such a hardwired thing, I don’t even think we always know we are doing it. Here’s one way to know: If you are scrolling through Facebook, and you start feeling badly about yourself or critical of your friends, instead of being happy for them, as you read their positively postured posts, you’re more than likely comparing. Another truth: If you’re not content with your life at the moment, you’re not going to find contentment on Facebook.
I am reading a book right now called, Soulprint: Discovering Your Divine Destiny, by Mark Batterson. In it, the author states, “There never has been and never will be anyone like you, but that isn’t a testament to you. It’s a testament to the God who created you.”
I love this statement! When we embrace our uniqueness, rather than seeking uniformity, we stop comparing ourselves to others, and we are free to experience joy and contentment, rather than being ruled by misery and discontent.
In a world where you can be anything, be the unique you that God created you to be. Nothing more. Nothing less. Protect yourself from the thief of joy by simply being content with who you are, and resisting the urge to compare yourself to who you think you should be. #beyourself