“Comparison is the thief of joy”…a quote most of us are familiar with and one we keep in our back pocket as a tidbit of wisdom for others. However, how often do you find yourself struggling with comparison and letting it rob you blind? Me? All the time. I am the most guilty of forgetting to live by the words I so freely give to others.
With social media, it can be hard to not question your life when it is held up against someone else’s. I remember the first time it affected me. I unfortunately entered my teen years when Myspace became a thing. I was fourteen with every teenage issue under the sun. In my eyes, all my friends had blossomed and I was just stuck in this weird in-between place that left me feeling like a big loser. I wanted to be cooler, wanted a boyfriend (my eyes are rolling), and just wanted to be comfortable in my own skin. Looking back, I don’t think I was feeling much different than any of my peers. It wasn’t until my flaws and insecurities were put out on display that comparison took on an infectious tone.
I remember the process of picking a profile picture, and the painstaking attention I gave in the hopes of showing everyone my best self. It’s incredible, right? That desire to be who we think we need to be in order to please others. The sad part is that my best self wasn’t good enough. Atleast, not when I compared it to someone else’s. I can still recall the feelings and thoughts I had then.
If only I didn’t have braces like ______. [embarrassment]
If only my hair were a different color like _______. [jealousy]
If only I were smaller like _______. [disgust]
I had felt uncomfortable in my skin before, but I think putting yourself out there in such an intimate way in a non-intimate space is extremely toxic. I was so concerned with how I appeared in relation to others. As a teenager, I wasn’t sure how to navigate my own self-worth, and being bombarded with this freedom to compare was really harmful. I felt it deeply and am still aware of its effect on me to this day.
You would hope that on the other side of adolescence I would reflect on my past mistakes and rise above them. I wish. To be completely honest, the season of life Justin and I are in is wrought with comparison problems (then again, isn’t every season?). I cannot begin to tell you the amount of conversations we have had about money and purchases we are “supposed” to make because everyone else around us seems to be. If we lived in a bubble, we would be perfectly content with our lives and what we have. Yet, we connect with people through technology and are bombarded with beautiful pictures of vacations, images of fancy new cars, and stories of buying houses and perfect jobs. We just look at each other and ask…how? How is that not us? How are we the ones “struggling” in this season of life? Now, I’m going to press pause on this train of thought because it is really something I want to dive into deeper at a later time.
So to wrap this up, I obviously still struggle with comparison. It still steals my joy. But you know what? I’m not alone. Even though it can feel like you are the only one, we all feel the toxicity of comparison. Myspace has turned into Facebook and Instagram. Digital cameras have turned into iPhones. Photoshop has changed how we view beauty. People curate their lives to appear perfect. It’s a real struggle to be content in the world we live in. Technology has taken away our ability to disengage and just be. When you’re constantly surrounded by other people’s stories, you don’t have a chance to rest in your truth and your contentment.
So, how do we fight it?
How do we attempt to take back our joy when it seems like our culture thrives on comparison?
I feel like I could write a book on this topic but I’m going to do my best to narrow it down to two ways I’ve managed comparison stealing my joy. Just know, I’m honestly doing my best to live this out, but I fail all. the. time. In fact, comparison is such a “normal” thing that the toxic nature often goes unchecked. Everyone compares! Everyone feels bad about themselves! It’s how we get better! It’s “normal”.
Well, it may be “normal” but it is not okay.
So, let’s get to it:
1. You are the only you in the world. You matter more than you will ever know. This is so, so important. Every single one of us was put on this earth with a purpose. No one else can do it but YOU. Every thing you do, every relationship you cultivate, and every moment you take a breath are intimately woven into our world’s story. You are perfectly you.
Now, this is where it gets amazing. Your Heavenly Father made you exactly as you are. It wasn’t chance. It was a purposeful and perfect creation.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. Psalm 139:14
God made you to be you and nobody else. Don’t waste this precious gift by spending time wishing you were like someone else or had someone else’s life. Your sense of humor, the color of your skin, your love of science, your interesting past, and the nature of your laugh are all pieces of who YOU are. Whenever I start to get down on myself and feel the toxicity of comparison seeping into my heart, I like to remind myself that I am a purposeful creation. I was meant to be only me and only I can live my life. Spend a little time each day praising God for the simple act of creating you just as you are. The more time you focus on what you have, the less power comparison will have on you.
2. Live authentically. I think we all struggle with the need to share our lives but not share the real, yucky stuff. We want to have the best profile pictures, the best friendship photos, the most likes on our picture. We want the validation that we are good enough. However, I think it is so important that we are as appropriately honest as we can be. That means we don’t share every intimate detail of our lives, but we don’t lie and pretend everything is okay.
Justin and I were on a trip once and we got into an argument right after taking a picture. The next day, I posted the picture (which was happy, loving, and perfect for Instagram) but every time I look at it, all I see is the argument. Anyone else looking at the picture would think we had the perfect vacation. The pictures we choose to share never tell the icky details. It never tells the entire, real story.
I’m not saying that I should have detailed the history of the picture in the caption, and I’m not saying we didn’t have a wonderful vacation, but I think it is important to be mindful of how we are presenting ourselves. Looking back, I shouldn’t have posted the picture. It wasn’t an authentic moment. I just wanted validation from other people.
Honestly, that’s really hard for me to write, but it needs to be said. We can’t fix the problem if we don’t renounce it’s power. So now, I do my best to live authentically in person and on social media. I don’t share the private moments of my life, but I don’t pretend things are okay when they aren’t.
Don’t force moments to happen simply to put them out there for validation. Live your life and those “perfect” moments will come! Let others see the real, authentic joy in your life.
On the flip side, remember this when viewing other people’s lives. Be careful when consuming other people’s stories. They are sharing what they want to share!
This post is getting a little long (like I said, I could write a book), but I plan to write more about this topic later on. In the mean time, I hope that wherever this lands with you you’ll remember that comparison happens to us all. Social media has created a platform for it, but we don’t have to let it speak into our lives. The next time you face comparison, try to implement one of the above suggestions and see how it makes you feel. I promise to do the same.