Faith

The pitfalls of comparison

Agnes Lee // April 30, 2018, 10:00 am

comparison

For most of my life I couldn’t stop comparing myself to others.

Is he smarter than me? Is she prettier than me? Does she have more friends than I do? Sounds normal and innocent enough, but I ended up being sucked into it – unable to be thankful for anything.

It started when I was a child. In my country, there is strong emphasis on education, so my parents naturally wanted me to do well in my studies. In a competitive environment where everyone tried their best to outdo each other – I studied hard. I was always thinking at the back of my mind, “Did I do better than my cousins or my friends?”

I began to compare even more as I became an adult: My physical appearance and salary were two points for frequent comparison with others. I would look at the material possessions they had – their new clothes and cars – and wonder if I could afford the same things.

And once I started, I just couldn’t stop. I found myself comparing every single detail about myself with others.  I became a perfectionist and developed a severe fear of missing out (FOMO). I wanted to be just as beautiful and rich as my friends were.

Blinded by the god of the world, I mistakenly thought that things would make me feel better. I worked hard to obtain what I wanted but my heart only felt emptier after. I craved for more in an endless pursuit that only left me more tired than satisfied.

It never occured to me that only an eternal God could fill my heart.

The real problem wasn’t that others were better than I am – it was the negative way I saw myself.

In the end, my toxic habit of comparing caused me to lose a good friend. At my first job, I made friends with a colleague who was a fresh graduate like myself.  We joined the same department and were tasked with the same role. Everything seemed to be going well as we learnt the ropes together.

But I couldn’t stop comparing myself to her.

While I seemed like her good friend on the outside – I secretly disliked her. She was tall, slim and beautiful – I was short and average looking.  She was friendly and sociable – I was reserved and quiet.

And our colleagues seemed to like her more than me. The more popular she got, the more bitter I became. Why is she better at everything that I am? That’s not fair.

Feeling inferior and jealous, I began to ignore her and give her strange glances. Naturally, she was puzzled and angry at my actions and our friendship soon soured. Just as I had done to her, she became cold to me and voiced her displeasure about me to others.

We were no longer on talking terms, and I soon felt like a loner in the company. I left the organization and lost contact with everyone there.

Many years later, after I came to know the Lord, I was reflecting on a passage from 1 Corinthians 12:15-18. I was struck that all of us are different from each other for a reason: To play different roles in the Body of Christ. In this way, no one is more important than another.

It dawned upon me that my habit of comparison was not biblical since each member of the body is meant to be unique, so that the Body of Christ can function as one. Whatever traits I had were meant to enable me to contribute in a special capacity to the Kingdom of God.

I had allowed my insecurities, low self-esteem and lack of self-love to consume me. The real problem wasn’t that others were better than I am – it was the negative way I saw myself.

Psalm 139:13-14 reassured me greatly. It says I am fearfully and wonderfully made by my Creator. God Himself formed my inward parts and knitted me together in my mother’s womb – my seemingly negative traits were not mistakes that He made.

God has given us different gifts and talents (Romans 12:6a) – along with different looks. With wisdom and thoughts that are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), He has planned a unique life for each of us that only we can live. A life of endless comparison is not His plan for us.

Rather than wasting our lives by wallowing in self-pity, we can choose to surrender our lives to God, trusting in His plan.

When we anchor our identity in Him, we are secured and will not be shaken by the world.

As I became convicted by this truth, I found myself increasing in love for God. His views became mine and I wanted to do His will – to love those around me. God is freeing me from my natural tendency to compare myself to others.

His Word is like a lamp to my feet (Psalm 119:105) leading me out of the darkness of comparison. Whenever I think of comparing myself with others, I remind myself of His truth from the living Word – of His sovereign will and unique plans for me during my limited time on earth.

Thankfully, my relationships with others have improved. Although it is sad that my ex-colleague and I are no longer friends, I hope to meet her again someday to apologise to her, so as to be reconciled.

Instead of a worldly FOMO, I have developed a holy FOMO — a fear of missing out on what God is doing in my life. Pleasing God is now my first priority. Tasting the kind of joy and freedom that only He can give, I never want to give Him up again for a life of darkness and comparison.


This article was first published on YMI.today, and is republished with permission.