It’s my favorite day of the week: Girl Talk Tuesday. I love diving in and talking about topics that we girls struggle with. I’ve been wanting to tackle today’s topic for some time because it’s something I see most every woman in my life deal with: Comparison.
We all compare. We do it when we shop, when we make decisions, when we have conversations… Heck, when even do it when we date, although we swear we don’t. Women treat comparison like it’s an olympic sport. And some of us could medal in it a thousand times over.
There are situations when comparison is appropriate, sometimes even necessary. But there are also many times when it’s harmful. Theodore Roosevelt very famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Oh Teddy, right you are. I would venture to take it one step further to say that comparison is the thief of much more than joy. Comparison can also rob you of a healthy body image, security, friendships, self worth… The list goes on and on.
We women learn to compare at a very young age. I remember in grade school seeing girls with beautiful, curly hair and thinking, “If only my hair was curly like hers.” Maybe you didn’t have stick-straight hair like I did, but I can guarantee there are things you can remember your much younger self saying “If only” about. Maybe it was, “If only I was thin/smart/pretty/funny/outgoing…”
The comparing little girl grows up to become the comparing young woman in most cases. “If only” my marriage was better, I had a different job, drove a nicer car, my kids were better behaved, I lost this extra 10 lbs… The “If only’s” get more plentiful with age it seems. We watched Anne of Green Gables last week and the constant theme was Anne wishing to be beautiful, without her famous red hair. She wanted to be something, anything, that she wasn’t.
We were all created equal in God’s eyes, but here’s where things get interesting… God didn’t create all of us the same. We all are different and unique in our own way. But we each have our own idea of what “perfect” looks like, and it almost never looks like the person who is doing the defining. How boring would this world be if we were all looked, thought and acted the same? There would be no variety, no special gifts or talents. Holy Stepford Wives.
I’m so guilty of playing the comparison game. I did it in elementary school and I still do it today. I have an unrealistic expectations about who I am supposed to be as a person, wife and blogger. The funny part is, the only person who puts those unrealistic expectations on me, is me. I see what my peers are accomplishing and it makes me think that I’m slacking. That’s where I’m wrong. As Beth Moore (loosely) put it, we can think she (another woman) is beautiful without thinking that we’re ugly. We can be happy for her successes without feeling like a total failure. But yet we do.
We see the perfectly photoshopped figures of gorgeous women on the magazine covers and think to ourselves how terrible we look. Instead, we should realize that no one really looks that way, without the help of a team of professional editors. We see the perfectly decorated home on Pinterest and feel like an absolute failure because our home will never look that way. We read about perfect marriages and think there is something wrong with us when we have yet another fight with our husbands. Do you know the problem with all of this? It’s that we would’ve never thought we had a problem at all if we hadn’t seen someone else doing things “better.” That’s the problem with the internet and media in general. They portray that you’re living this way, but you really should be living that way. And we take the bait. We let those images penetrate our thoughts and hearts. We begin to see the way that others live/look/do things as the right way, and ours as the wrong. That’s how we fall into the comparison trap.
Before social media, we had to be more intentional in seeking out ways to make ourselves feel constantly inferior. Yes, we’ve always had the women at work or the gym who have the great figures. But we didn’t know what every incredible interior designer’s home looked like at the click of a button. We didn’t have the ability to see these perfect internet moms with their perfectly dressed kids.
So how do you stop it? How do you get off the wild comparison ride that makes you crazy? I’m still on it, personally, but I wanted to share some thoughts and practical tips that have helped me in some of my darker moments.
- Check yourself. When the words “If only” (or similar) creep into your mind, stop yourself and think about it for a moment. When I start on the downward comparing spiral, I try to stop it immediately and change gears. I don’t want to waste valuable time and energy doing something that only leaves me feeling inadequate.
- Stay positive. If I do find myself comparing and unable to shake it, I try to take control of my thoughts by considering the positive things about me or the situation. We’re all unique and unique is a great thing.
- Do something about it. There are times when we compare and it’s damaging. But there are also time when we compare and it should be a wake up call. If you’re feeling bad about your weight, get up and do something to get in better shape. Feeling down about your career, take the necessary steps to do something to change that circumstance. Instead of spending time and energy dwelling on what others have, spend it on achieving the goals you have for yourself. Dwell on the negatives and they’ll consume you. Get active and work towards the positives, and you’ll see results.
- Remember that comparing reaps no benefits. You always lose by comparing.
- It can destroy relationships, and I’m not having that. Have a friend or colleague that you secretly compete with? Guess what… There’s a good chance you’ll end up resenting that person, if you don’t already. We see someone consistently doing better than us, compare ourselves and then we begin to resent that person. We seem to forget regularly that we’re not all given the same gifts, traits or characteristics. I wasn’t blessed with a beautiful singing voice. Does that mean I should hate all my friends who can sing? Of course not. What we need to remind ourselves in these situations is that there is something we have been gifted with that others don’t have.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the moments when we’re feeling inadequate and insecure (read this post for more on that subject). It’s so stinkin’ easy to think that the grass really is greener. But as the saying goes, the grass is only greener where you water it. So next time you start to compare, stop and think about why you’re doing it. Is it something you can or should change about yourself? Or is this a total waste of time and energy. Don’t allow yourself to travel down the path of unrealistic expectations any longer. A positive mindset is a choice. Choose to see yourself for your positives, not for her (whoever she may be) positives.