He has followed me around for years now.
He sneaks into the room and slithers into conversations. He’s always hanging around when I’m watching television, and he absolutely loves social media. He tries to convince me to spend too much money on pointless things and he’s always telling me what success looks like.There’s not a day that goes by that he isn’t lying to me, constantly trying to make me feel insecure and inadequate.
I hate him.
You probably know him pretty well, too. His name is Comparison. I bet you don’t like him just as much I don’t.
The older I become, the more I recognize him. I know his ways. I can spot him from a mile away. I can easily see past his persuasive messaging telling me that I need to look like her or talk like that guy. I know by now that Comparison’s definition of success is one big farce.
If I’m being honest, though, there are still days when Comparison totally wins, even though I know he’s a complete sham. It’s hard, I will say, when he’s literally waiting for me around every corner. He’s in the check out line at the grocery store, and he gets louder and louder with every swipe of my thumb scrolling through my Instagram feed. Y’all, he even shows up at church.
If I’m being honest, though, there are still days when Comparison totally wins, even though I know he’s a complete sham.
Here’s how our annoying conversations usually go:
Me: How is her skin so perfect?
Comparison: That’s what you need to be prettier and happier. Better skin. Go buy more expensive skin care products.
Me: Wait. He’s traveling the world?
Comparison: That’s what your life is missing right now. You need to start saving time and money for this and only this.
Me: She has her own company at 26?!
Comparison: Yup. You’re falling behind. You need to devote your life to getting rich and famous if you ever want to leave a mark on this world.
Comparison: Caitlin, listen to me. If you work your butt off for these things, you will be satisfied. You will be complete.
We know these are lies. We know that money doesn’t promise satisfaction. We know that the happiness on social media can be fabricated and filtered. We know that fame won’t solve all of our problems.
How many times have we heard stories of the richest people in the world committing horrible crimes, are deeply unhappy, or are disconnected from reality? And we’re all too familiar with the Hollywood beauty and fame that often ends with broken marriages, addictions, or even suicide.
We’re wasting our lives away on things that don’t ultimately matter.
And yet, I don’t really see the knowledge of this changing the way we live. We still buy into Comparison’s lies. We still invest every ounce of our being into fitting in with the rest of the world, hoping that we’ll luck out. Meanwhile, we’re wasting our lives away on things that don’t ultimately matter.
“Okay, I know that whole fame, riches, and glory thing didn’t work out for the last guy, but maybe it will for me. Maybe, at the end of my life, those things will actually fill this pit that’s growing, gaping, and festering inside of me.”
In that moment, right when you think that prettier skin, more money, a record label, or more public recognition will make you feel whole, Comparison wins. And why is this so bad?
Because while we’re investing our time, money, soul, emotions, and brain capacity into these things that Comparison led us to, the things that actually matter in our lives begin to suffer. We begin focusing on ourselves. We become paralyzed in the mirror. Our number one priority in life is, well, ourselves.
We become paralyzed in the mirror. Our number one priority in life is, well, ourselves.
As long as we keep ourselves at the front of the line, hoping that our spiritual life, our family and community will fall in line behind us, they will actually just fall off completely.
I’ve learned this about Comparison. He will consume my thoughts with myself. When I’m stuck in the habit of comparing myself to others in order to “improve” and to fill the hole in my heart, selfishness takes root. I become king.
Like I said, I battle with Comparison daily. However, I’ve found that there’s one surefire way to fight back and win. When I remember that I am not king, and when I decide to focus on loving others versus indulging on thoughts of myself, Comparison loses his grip on my heart. When I lay down my desires and look in the bible to see what the ultimate King wants for me, Comparison doesn’t stand a chance.
I’m warning you: Putting God and others first and living second does not fit in with the rat race. Comparison will tell you that you’re wasting your time and falling behind. But remember that there is more to this life waiting for us at the end of the road, and as Francis Chan said, “Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”
“Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” – Francis Chan
Meet your neighbors. Love your family. Give to those in need. Get to know what God wants for you. Don’t let Comparison tell you what success looks like. He just wants you to look like the rest of the world, but you were made for something much greater.
Reprinted with permission from I Am Second, 2017.