I’ll start with my own story of a comparison trap and why I find it so important that we stop comparing ourselves to others. We have this really posh mall near our home. To give you an idea of what it’s like- they have an entire store dedicated to Coach handbags. I suspect the bags don’t even have price tags. As they say, “if you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it.”. I’m too shy to breach the entrance to tell you if that holds true. But, oh, how I love to window shop.
Each time we go to the mall I pull out my cutest clothes. I do my hair and spend an extra couple of minutes on my make-up. I feel pretty good. That is, until I walk into the mall. There I see so many women far more beautiful and fashionable than I. There are more $200 jeans and perfectly made-up faces than I can count. And… I start to feel like a troll. I am not having fun anymore.
That is comparisons for you, they take what is perfectly wonderful and make it less-than. It’s always a losing game.
(If you can relate, check out this post on Balancing Inner & Out Beauty)
COMPARISONS ARE EVERYWHERE
I often long for a simpler time. A time when we were living in small communities and knew one another well. We would see one another at the local store or while gathering water. We’d chat, talk about our families, and feel refreshed with friendship. We may rack our brains with a few comparisons on our walk home, but there’s not too much to fuel the fire of “not good enough”.
Contrast that daily interaction with how we live in the 21st century. Potential comparisons are everywhere now! Social media, advertisements, and magazines all boast perfectly coiffed models and organized homes. Now we don’t just compare ourselves to our neighbor, we compare ourselves with the world. A photo-shopped, food-styled, professionally organized world. Even your friends are posting their best photos from a reel of 20. We’re living in a very UNreal world and comparisons are completely unfair!
No doubt you are nodding your head in agreement with that last statement. Comparing ourselves with fabricated images is completely unfair, so why do we do it?
THE PURPOSE OF COMPARISONS
Comparisons serve as a measuring stick when we are trying to find the answer to a question that echoes within our human condition “Am I good enough?”. We all want to measure up but we can only measure what we quantify. So, we create standards using those around us. What is the definition of beauty, of success, of a fit body, a nice car, a clean home, or a happy life?
We choose the standard AND the measurement from the world around us. But the Bible says that this is not wise.
2 Corinthians 10:12 NLT Oh, don’t worry; we wouldn’t dare say that we are as wonderful as these other men who tell you how important they are! But they are only comparing themselves with each other, using themselves as the standard of measurement. How ignorant!
THE COMPARISON TRAP
But comparisons keep us stuck. When we view someone else as the standard, we are using a very short measuring stick. It’s not to say that what your best friend is doing isn’t marvelous, it’s just not what YOU were called to do. When we keep our eyes on others we maintain a horizontal focus when were created for a vertical gaze. We can get so busy looking around us that we completely miss our God-given direction.
And I am sure you agree that comparisons rob us of the joy of our journey. It is said “compare and despair”. Ain’t that the truth? By occupying our mind with all the ways we “aren’t”, we completely miss all the ways we “are”.
Oddly, the same person we find ourselves coming up short to, is likely comparing themselves to someone else, and also not making the cut either. It’s a trap we ALL can fall into. A trap that keeps us from our incredible purpose!
YOUR PURPOSE IS YOURS
God created you with a mind, a soul, and a spirit perfectly suited for that which you were called. Your talents, your likes, your dislikes, your quirks they all are individually and beautifully YOU! They all are woven together to form a fabric so intricately unique it CAN NOT be compared with another. As we admire each stitch in a hand-crafted garment, greater is the thoughtfulness of your Creator.
To compare any part of your being with another is like comparing a pair of running shoes to a pair of flip-flops. Both have completely different looks and purposes. For one to take on the traits of the other would be a complete disservice to its original design.
MOVING PAST COMPARISONS
We first move past comparisons to others by choosing our measuring stick. If we take a moment and think about it, really think about, measuring ourselves by human standards is really selling ourselves short. Instead, seek God for His guidance for YOU. Not your friend, your coworker, or your workout partner. No one. Decide that you are more than just another stat and excitedly look for the calling on YOUR life.
When faced with opportunities to fall back into old patterns (yes, they will come!) try to catch yourself as soon as you can. Notice the thoughts and don’t fight them. Appreciate your desire to be better and redirect that desire to God. Ask Him what He thinks about this comparison. Inquire what He has for you and direct your energy into YOUR mission.
Then enjoy having your own mission! This is a charge that no one else has. It is uniquely you because you were made for this.
(If you find yourself comparing your body to those of others, this article on Body Positivity: Why adopting a better body image just makes sense is a great read!)
TO WRAP UP
If you struggle with comparisons then you are not alone. Pretty much anyone who is still breathing will fall into the comparison trap! We are surrounded by messages that will constantly tell us that we do not measure up, if we listen. But we don’t have to! You and I, we can recognize that comparisons keep us stuck. They keep our eyes horizontal when everything we need is vertical. When we look at God’s plans for our lives we won’t be bogged down by our limited human understanding. We can be used in the exact way we were designed to be!