The Comparison Trap
We have all used comparison in negative ways on occasion.
We’re programmed to according to the ways of our society and culture, sadly. Society constantly throws at us ways in which to compare ourselves to others, and it’s hard to ignore it. Comparison is a sort of benchmarking tool and let’s face it, we all love a sticky-beak at the lives and work of others sometimes.
The dangerous thing about comparison is that we don’t even realise how dangerous can be. And it’s quite easy to fall into the trap of thinking that your comparison isn’t harmful, and that comparing yourself to others doesn’t really affect your life. But how many of us have ever compared ourself to someone else and then proceeded to feel negatively about our own lives for whatever reason? I’m willing to gamble that all of us have felt that at some point.
These defeatist thoughts creep in sometimes, when you least expect it. Even the most confident and self assured people aren’t immune to thoughts of “If only I had ____, I’d feel better,” or “Why don’t I look like that?”
The latter of those statements is pretty vague and generic, but it’s a big one. Particularly for women, who are raised on a culture of comparing one’s self to peers and celebrities. And ultimately, this is a faulty notion and a trap - because as women of God, we KNOW that we are more than what the world says we are.
And yet still, sometimes it can be tough to navigate around the messages that tell us to be thinner, prettier, wittier, sexier, flashier… that whatever we are as a woman is not enough.
And although many popular publications now claim to be all about embracing who you are, these statements are still, in fact a contradiction. They’re simply more coyly disguised than the statements of decades passed. Just look at any popular women’s magazine and on the same cover, you’ll see headlines along the lines of “How to be the best version of yourself” next to “How to get *insert celebrity’s* body!”
You’ve got empowerment juxtaposed against insecurity. And all of it - at least all of it presented by the modern, Western world - is largely narcissistic.
Because when we become caught up and fixated on perfecting our body or our clothes or our image… we fall into a trap and take our eyes off of God.
It’s self destructive culture in the disguise of ‘self love’ culture – essentially telling us that it’s awesome to love who we are (as long as who we are is someone else).
And whilst yes, a healthy self-esteem is absolutely important and as is self-love in the sense of caring for the mind and body that God has blessed you with…
Being self-obsessed is an entirely different story.
Self-obsession breeds sin and consumerism.
This is why it’s super important to be a discerning consumer of products and information… because not everything labelled as ‘self-love’ is good for you. Not everything labelled as ‘self-love’ is even self-love at all… sometimes, it’s just cleverly marketed, long-term self-destruction.
The kind of destruction that takes our focus away from God, our families, our marriages, our friends, our purpose… and instead makes us zero in on our bodies, our appearance, our superficial and flawed human tendencies, or our desire for others to see us in a certain light.
Consumerist, narcissistic and image-focused self-love feeds the cycle of comparison.
And comparison feeds on the fear that our faults define us, rather than our triumphs.
This self-comparison behaviour certainly isn’t helped by the pressures of social media, where we constantly see snapshots of other people’s lives.
And naturally, people only post the updates that present themselves as they’d like the world to see them.
Not the negative bits. Not the days where they woke up and felt like crap, or where they had a terrible day at work and just wanted to cry. Not the hum-drum days where they went home, watched TV and ate a microwave meal.
Not the days where there were blessings to be found in every tribulation, but they didn’t want to open their eyes and see.
Not the days where they decided to wallow in negativity, or were held captive by their old, faulty beliefs.
As women of God, we must be switched on to the traps of the world.
We must be switched on to the fact that although the world might want to define us by our dress size, hair condition, makeup skills or sex appeal… the WORD doesn’t want to define us this way.
The world tells us that we need to be working harder to be ‘perfect’ less we not be able to find a man. The WORD knows that we’re not perfect, and shows us that God loves us anyway, helping us to grow and be better.
The world tells us that we’re not enough. The WORD tells us that faith, even the size of a mustard seed, is MORE than enough and that our weaknesses, in God’s hands, become strengths.
But everything takes work - including our relationship with God. And especially when it comes to navigating the modern world as a woman who wants to live by the WORD and not fall into the traps of modern objectification, false idols and narcissism.
God wants us to check in with him, to pray without ceasing and to lean on him for support. God knows our struggles, and knows that we are destined for MORE.
God will tell us, there is no guarantee for a life without hardship, suffering or challenges - all of us will face obstacles, but there are lessons (and blessings!) to come from these trials.
And through it all, we will only ever be ourselves.
And if we are to walk through these challenges with boldness and perseverance with God, we need to fix our eyes on our own plate - and not on the life of someone else that we think is doing better than us.
Not the person at church who you think has it all together. Not the neighbour whose life looks perfect. Not the stranger that you assume must be absolutely killing it in every sense.
Just us. Imperfect, flawed, us.
All of us, deeply flawed by design, but working to be more Christ-like and to honour God’s image.
Us, who have everything that we need with God and the talents that he has given each of us, uniquely.
What an awesome opportunity.
A Prayer for Overcoming Comparison:
“God, Guide me to fix my eyes on my own plate and let me hone my own gifts and purpose, rather than coveting the lives of others. Show me how to spend more time cultivating my own wonderful life and lean me away from comparison, which I know is just judgement wrapped in fear.
In Jesus mighty name, Amen.”