I know you play the comparison game because I do too. I found myself swirling in it up to my eyebrows last week, when I couldn’t figure out why I had chewed all my fingernails. After pausing for a deep breath and a little reflecting, I could finally pin point the source of my frustration as that all-too-familiar pastime of comparison.
I love my life and I really love my schedule. But the beginning of a new week can feel like whiplash even for me. You see, our little family comes off the weekend where we’ve done our own thing at our own pace. We’ve enjoyed intentional moments of living in love. And then all of a sudden, we get to Monday and it’s a fresh bombardment of everyone else’s needs, wants, and expectations. I haven’t even brushed my teeth yet and I already feel behind. Can we just go back to Saturday, please?!
Social Media: the comparison game’s cheapest shot
Vulnerable admission here: social media can sink my ship in the comparison department. It seems like everyone gets a fresh burst of energy and motivation on Monday (which we all should!) to ask me to try or buy something, or to showcase their magnificent bodies or lifestyles online. Advertisers know we are trolling the Internet Monday mornings and so they place strategic advertisements to remind us that we’re lacking in every department and therefore we need something. That we deserve this purchase. That our life/health/wellness/happiness is worth the investment of our money. So by 9 AM Monday morning, we’ve forgotten that amazing scripture we read when we woke up that reminds us we’re loved and valuable just as we are, and instead by comparison we’re feeling less-than and not enough.
Ooof. Just about the time I’m feeling defeated because my lower back spasm and postpartum belly pooch are crying for mercy just as loudly as my stretched-out jeans, I have to force myself to close my computer (or phone apps). Instead of being distracted by someone else’s version of happiness, I have to redirect my thoughts and focus on the magnificent life I’m creating for myself and the people I love most.
Focus on you
We all love our friends. But I challenge you to take your eyes off of whatever journey they’re on, if only just for today, and shift focus back on yourself. What’s YOUR vision? What do you want to cultivate more of in your life? All it takes to bring more fruits of the spirit into your life is the realization that you desire to do so, and then making the decision to do something about it. YOU are 100% in control of that project.
By playing the comparison game, you give over that 100% control to someone else. Someone else who doesn’t own your life, pay your bills, live with your spouse, parent your children, or have your gifts. Why do we do that?!
Comparison can stifle your growth and crush your spirit. It’s subtle and sneaky, and before you know it, you’re chewing your fingernails too or wondering why that eye twitch won’t quit.
Here are some surprising ways that comparison is holding you back:
It’s wasting the most precious gift you have – your time.
By looking to the person on the left and the right, or even looking back over your shoulder at the person behind you, you’re stealing precious time away from the main character in your story: YOU. There is always going to be someone better, stronger, smarter, faster, and prettier (by the world’s standards). That is just fact. BUT instead of comparing yourself, select one person to model and emulate. Whose life looks like the one you desire? Whose faith, whose relationships, whose finances, etc. are where you’d like to be? There’s a big difference between comparing yourself to that person (negative focus) and striving to become more like them in the ways you admire (positive focus). Focus on YOU and stop wasting time in comparison.
Also notable, most of us resort to self-soothing methods to feel better when our confidence takes a blow – we start eating, scrolling, binge-watching, etc. These are also time-wasters.
It distorts reality by comparing your weaknesses to other people’s strengths.
Or, similarly, we’re comparing our chapter 1 to someone else’s chapter 30. It’s really easy as an entrepreneur to look at the top names in the business and feel defeated because you’re on chapter 1 of your journey. My faith/business/health/communication/wealth are not as strong as the leaders I admire. But they’ve been at this a lot longer, and with much more intention. It would be easy to shut down over how far I still have to go. But in reality, my chapter 1 is coming along quite nicely.
In many ways, I feel like I’m on chapter 1’s in just about every area: my marriage, parenting, writing, personal growth, and health. So I’ll stay in gratitude, in my own real world, celebrating my personal strengths and successes, and giving myself grace for the areas I’m still improving. The experts are experts because they started right where I am… and they just kept going.
Comparison works the other way, too. If my confidence is bruised, or my insecurities get out of control, it’s easy to start leveraging my own success against other people’s weaknesses. (“I’m so much further ahead than they are… at least I’m not that bad,” etc.) This is the quickest way to pick up some unflattering arrogance and a guaranteed way to earn a much-needed kick in the proverbial pants. The bigger the ego, the harder it falls.
It sends you into a tailspin of justification, excuses, and personal shaming.
Once you start feeling less-than, your mind immediately begins protecting itself by telling you all the reasons that you’re less-than. “Well, she’s got more time… her husband is more supportive… my priorities are just different, etc.” Ultimately this is wasting even more of your time painting a pretty pitiful picture of yourself and everyone else involved.
Wouldn’t we all like a better inner dialogue? Change your thoughts!
Comparison robs you of your confidence.
Spend enough time reflecting on your weaknesses and lack, and no matter how spectacular your strengths are, you’ll start feeling like a zero. That low energy will spread to just about every area of your life – home, work, relationships. Here are two sister articles on how to grow your confidence or rebuild it after it’s been bruised.
You let it limit your forward motion and progress.
What you focus on will grow. So rather than focusing on the things that make you feel small, put your blinders on, stay in your own lane, and get back to doing/creating/being exactly what you are meant for. Nobody else is going to do it for you.
Comparison takes you out of gratitude.
How can you stay in a spirit of gratitude when you’re disappointed about the things you don’t have? Gratitude is the root of every fruit of the spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. So if you desire to cultivate those qualities in your life, ditch the comparison game and get back to gratitude. There are zillions of strategies for this but a journal is the easiest. Each morning, or whenever you start feeling sucked dry by comparison, jot down three things you feel grateful for. Before long that gratitude will become habit. For me, it looks like a daily, constant self-talk in my mind and heart. Gratitude gives a sweeter fragrance to everything I do.
No, you’re not perfect. Neither am I. There are so many ways we can continue to grow and learn and stretch into the best versions of ourselves. But the comparison game isn’t the way to do it.
What’s one way comparison is crushing your spirit? And what are you going to do about it today?
Reading List: Just about anything positive and uplifting in the personal development niche will help you edge away from the comparison game. Here are a few of my favorites!
Just so you know! These are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase a book through one of these links, it won’t cost you a penny more, but I’ll receive a small commission which helps keep our little community up and running.
What’s Holding You Back? by Sam Horn
Gmorning, Gnight! Little Pep Talks for Me & You by Lin Manuel Miranda
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
The Confidence Code (for Women) by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
The Confidence Code for Girls by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman