I used to have a terrible habit. It was a habit that could trigger growth of the mind weeds of insecurity and inadequacy. For the past several years I have made good progress towards breaking this habit, but habits die hard!
So what is this nasty habit? It is the habit of comparing ourselves to each other. This habit creates a power leakage in the lives of so many women.
A couple of years ago I came across the quote by President Theodore Roosevelt:
Comparison is a thief of joy.
When I first read this quote it blew me away by the absolute truth of those six little words.
I immediately could think of situation after situation where I was in a mental space of self-confidence and joy about my looks, accomplishments, and abilities. But the minute I looked around at other women and started comparing my life to their life, my joy was “stolen.”
It’s a habit that starts early in our lives. A great example of this comes from my last year of teaching third grade.
I had assigned my students a home project to create a habitat diorama for our science class. They had several weeks to create this project, and they were to include plants, animals, non-living things and a written description.
On the morning it was due, Edward arrived early because he was so excited about his project. What was great about Edward’s diorama was that it was actually created by Edward; it wasn’t created by his parents or an older sibling like the dioramas of some other students.
Edward proudly put it on his desk eagerly waiting for other students to show up with their dioramas.
So as the students started coming in to the classroom carrying their dioramas there was an air of pride and excitement. However, the energy started to change. The students slipped into “comparison” mode and began to mentally compare their dioramas with each other.
I noticed the faces of several students transform quickly from confidence to insecurity- especially Edward’s face.
With each diorama that was brought in, Edward seemed to withdraw and almost try to hide his diorama so no one could see his work. When I approached him and asked what was wrong, tears filled his eyes as he said, “My diorama isn’t any good.”
My heart broke! Here was this little boy who just minutes before was glowing with pride, but was now ashamed of his work. His joy had been stolen! And the thief? Comparison.
The downward spiral
When we compare ourselves it can send us into a downward spiral of mind weeds led by Satan himself.
Not only does it have the potential to create feelings of insecurity, unworthiness or self-doubt and thus steal our joy, but it can also trigger ugly thoughts. Thoughts about others who we think are “better” than us and we therefore steal their joy.
We start looking for something wrong about that person to make us feel better. Well, she may have lost a lot of weight, but now her wrinkles are more pronounced! Her engagement ring may have more carats than mine, but my fiancé is a LOT cuter than hers.
Each of us is an original
Look what St. Paul says in Galatians 5:26 (MSG)
That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.
Satan is constantly trying to separate us from each other and from Christ. When we view friends or strangers with a perspective of someone being better and the other one worse, we play right into the devil’s hands.
But St. Paul reminds us that you are an original, and I am an original. Each one of us was created by the loving hand of our Father, and he has blessed us with our own unique abilities and talents and gifts.
We have more important things to be doing with our lives. Comparing ourselves with each other in judgment is NOT why we are on this earth. Using our gifts, talents, and abilities for the glory of God is what we are to be doing.
So if you are tempted to compare…
If comparison rears its ugly head when you encounter someone, keep in mind the following:
1. Instead of giving in to the habit of comparing, which steals joy, make it a point to SPREAD joy by complimenting that person in your mind (bonus for you if you tell them your compliment).
2. Sometimes it is ok to compare! For example, when you see someone who has overcome or accomplished something great, and it inspires you to action, then comparison serves you.
3. View yourself from God’s perspective. You are his handiwork. You are an original! You bring something to this world that no one else possesses.
You have a choice on what you focus on, so choose to focus on all that you have to offer this world. Keep these words from Kind David close to your thoughts:
Day and night I’ll stick with God. I’ve got a good thing going and I’m not letting go. I’m happy from the inside out- and from the outside in, I’m firmly formed.- Psalm 16:8-9