The Danger of Comparison

“Stay in your own lane.”

A mentor of mine gave me this advice a couple of years ago when I was wrestling with comparison. Her wise words come to mind whenever I’m tempted to compare myself to others. I think that to some extent, everyone struggles with comparison. After all, it’s just a natural part of being human. However, as someone who wrestles with social anxiety, I have to be especially on guard against comparison.

It amazes me how quickly and easily comparison creeps into my heart.  And comparison has the potential to wreak havoc on my relationships. Instead of rejoicing in the strengths of others, I am threatened by their abilities and gifts. Instead of focusing on my unique journey with the Lord, I waste time analyzing how my progress measures up to others.

I am becoming more and more confident that the comparison game is a complete waste of time. And it is a game I will never win. There will always be someone more connected, more adventurous, more attractive, and more successful. It doesn’t matter the marker I use to compare myself. I will always come up short to somebody.

So how do we get out of this deadly trap once and for all? These are some ideas for avoiding comparison that I’ve found to be helpful in my own life:

Staying in my own lane: This is a lot harder than it sounds. For me, staying in my own lane means knowing my comparison triggers and avoiding them. Sometimes this means taking a break from social media and limiting the amount of time I spend online. Other times I need to cut out TV shows or movies that give me a false view of reality and cause me to feel discontent with my own life. At work, I need to focus my attention on my own classroom rather than comparing myself to my fellow teachers. And in my personal life, I need to be careful when conversations with friends or family take a competitive turn.

Practicing gratitude: Gratitude is key. There is so much power in thanking God for all that is good in my life. Gratitude destroys pride because it reminds me that every good thing in my life is a gift from God. Gratitude also opens my eyes to all of the gifts in my life that I take for granted when I compare myself to others.

Lately God has been challenging me to take gratitude a step further. Instead of thanking Him solely for the good in my life, He wants me to also thank Him for the good in other people’s lives. This includes their gifts, strengths, and blessings. It’s hard to be threatened by the good in others when I view those things as an evidence of God’s grace.

Focusing on the heart: I’ve noticed that comparison is usually focused on externals. We compare our outward appearance, relationships, jobs, and other successes. I think that we tend to compare external qualities because they are measurable and observable. However, I know from personal experience that my externals can look polished to others while my interior life is dangerously suffering. In times like this, God graciously reminds me that He cares most about my heart. When I focus on the quality of my inner life, comparison seems to fade away.

Choosing to be inspired: This is a newer perspective for me. Rather than being threatened by success in other people lives, I can allow it to inspire me. For example, rather than being threatened by another teacher’s success, I can be inspired to pursue the same excellence in my own teaching. Rather than envying someone else’s relationship, I can gain a vision of the type of relationship I want to one day have. This simple shift in thinking gives me greater hope for my future and the potential that I have to grow and change.

Asking for God’s perspective:  I think that this is the real game changer. In order to truly let go of comparison, I need to see myself the way God sees me. Recently God challenged me to ask Him what He loves about me. At first I struggled to receive His affirmation of me. However, with time, this exercise has been so powerful in removing insecurity from my life.

God has made each of us so uniquely.

And He doesn’t just love us.

He likes us too.

God wants to reveal to each of us His deep delight in us. And when we are confident that God delights in us, we can be confident that He delights in the people around us.

This puts us all on an even playing field.

And there is no need to compare.

9 thoughts on “The Danger of Comparison

  1. Hannah, this is so true. It’s also a joy to know that we are His “sent ones,” and how powerful it is when we each walk the unique lane for which He has equipped us. Blessings as you continue to walk in gratitude, and may His joy be your strength! ♥

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Perspective is the difference between faith and doubt, happiness and misery, peace and turmoil. Practicing gratitude is my fave of the list, or “training in contenment,” as I like to say.

    God’s perspective is also helpful, but does require effort to identify and humility to accept. Lord, let me see the things the way you do.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is not directly related to Christianity, but it is how I learned to overcome my social anxiety (which is moderate and sometimes severe). I moved to a town I had never seen until I decided to move here. I had to meet everyone and make friends in a place where people had known each other all their lives. It’s a small town in Colorado. I moved here because I could afford it when I retired, it’s incredibly beautiful, and, after 30 years in California I wanted to come back to my home state somehow. My ONLY worry was how I was going to manage the interpersonal relationship/friendship/meeting strangers part of this decision?

    I have a friend who has a developmentally disabled adult son. Mark is strange. He looks strange, walks strange, talks strange. He knows he’s different from other people and that he can make people uncomfortable. He also likes people — he loves meeting people, but he knows on some level that he makes them uncomfortable. Mark’s retarded by not stupid and he has an uncanny intuition. I’ve watched him.

    Every time he meets a new person — restaurant, social gathering, nature walk, whatever we do — he turns 100% of his attention to the new person. “I like your earrings.” “I like your tattoo.” “Your nails are pretty.” “Can I pet your dog?” Anything he can to reach out to the other person and show his interest IN THEM. I have never seen it fail. We go together (his mom, Mark and I) to craft fairs in my town, and before we know it, a friendly family has adopted him and we have to go look for him (pretty easy as he has a phone). It’s amazing. Mark succeeds because he is genuinely interested in others, exceedingly kind and knows he’s weird. Compassion, I think.

    So I figured I would just do what Mark does. I met people, observed them, showed interest in them. It had the same effect, opened the door to conversations and finding things in common and took the pressure off of me. I got to learn about them so the next time we met I KNEW them; they weren’t strangers any more. I’ve been here five years, have wonderful friends and all the social life I want (which, I admit, isn’t a lot). Mark’s method works.

    As for Jesus — Jesus’ entire existence was predicated on his interest in those around him. He gave his life for that, if you think about it. ❤

    Good luck. I know it isn't easy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love this perspective! Thank you so much for sharing. It’s so beautiful how this young man’s example impacted your life. What wise lessons he taught you simply by being himself. That’s so incredible how using his approach opened up relational doors in your own life. Again, thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

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