You may have heard the quote “comparison is the thief of joy” by Theodore Roosevelt.
It’s painfully true, isn’t it?
When we contrast and compare and line ourselves up to the measuring stick that was intended to belong to someone else, we are robbed of joy that was intended to belong to us. Comparison makes the grass look 10 shades greener on the other side of the fence and what we have is no longer good enough.
It’s not as new.
Or as thin.
It’s not as fun or as celebrated.
Or as popular.
It’s a little less shiny.
What we have, what we’ve accomplished, all that we’ve worked for suddenly dulls sitting next to someone else. Something that was never meant to be ours suddenly makes small of what is. During this time of contrasting, something gets taken from us. And something inside of feels…off.
I would like to suggest that comparison not only steals our joy, but robs us of peace, of satisfaction, of celebration and of our self-worth.
Robbed of peace & satisfaction
It’s unsettling, isn’t it? To look around and wish for a different reality. To look to our left and feel want. To look to our right and feel like we don’t quite measure up. Our heart is not at rest when we are busy contrasting and comparing the things we don’t have or wish we had or the things we want to be different.
Peace and contentment lean on each other; where there is contentment, peace can be found. When discontentment creeps in, peace begins to thin out until it completely disappears. When we look to someone else’s life for validation of our own, we will be robbed of our own peace. We will no longer feel satisfaction with what we have, and we lose our inner feeling of rest.
Planning a wedding in the era of social media and Pinterest is both wonderfully fun and wildly overwhelming. The pressures of creativity, ingenuity, and the need to be one-of-a-kind loom heavy over my head as a I try to balance budget, how much DIY I want to bury myself under, and the time frame of a short engagement. In an industry that burns through money like its kindling, it’s hard to practice satisfaction with what I have right in front of me and not spend my entire engagement chasing the next best thing. To fend off the “need” of more and more and more.
And add all of that to planning a wedding business to doing so right beside my best friend. Our weddings are 35 days apart (35. days. doesn’t your hair start falling out just thinking about it?). While it is SO fun dreaming together and planning together (and at times completely insane), the urge to compare is all too tempting. Her parties, her celebrations, the things that are given to her as gifts, both tangible and relational. They belong to her, and I pray each day for the power to leave them that way.
Contentment. Peace. The feeling that what I have is all that I need.
“Tell me anything you need…and I’ll tell you how to live without it.” -Ruth Lincoln, who died at age 111.
Robbed of self-worth
Your beauty is your own. Your laugh is your own. Your sense of humor is your own. The way your nose is shaped is specifically designed for your face, and no one else’s. When we compare these things that were created to be our own to someone else , we chip away at our self-worth and our self-esteem. We suddenly feel discontent with the size of our hips or the shape of our face or how thick our hair is when we notice that isn’t true of our friends. We feel discontent with the things that are our own, and so desire the things that weren’t intended to be ours. And our perspective of our beauty begins to fade in comparison.
While the mirror can feel like our enemy at times, our real enemy lies within our urge to size ourselves up when we look around the room. We find features and talents and images that we wish were true of us. We ditch our confidence for the lesser feeling of insecurity, all because we don’t look like what we now think we should. It’s a shame, really.
And while they are not totally to blame, the distorted Hollywood images or the “thinspiration” pictures on Facebook not only objectify beauty in a way that is totally false, but leave us wanting and striving for something that may not even fit our height, shape or form. We were not created to all look the same, and attempting such is an impossible feat.
And let’s cut each other a break while we’re at it. Let’s do our best to compliment and build each other up. Let’s focus on being healthy, and let’s also work on what we say about ourselves to each other. Beauty comes alive when it’s at rest, and that happens with confidence and contentment–both of which are hard to have when we’re always talking down on ourselves. Or hearing our skinny friend constantly talking about how she “wants to lose 3 pounds.” Which, by the way, makes me want to suffocate her with a donut.
Try, instead, positivity, and just watch the ripple effect.
Say nice things about yourself, both in your head and out loud, and I promise, beauty and self-confidence will being to bloom in your heart and in your life.
Robbed of celebration
When someone’s success causes us to turn green with envy, we are robbed of the ability to celebrate them. We spend our time and energy thinking about what we can change, fix, what we can do to get where they are. We rationalize and wonder about what they did right when we’ve been trying hard, too. And in those moments, it’s less about them and more about us.
Comparison causes our self focus to sky rocket and that ugly shade of envy cannot be hidden.
We’ve been waiting for the right person, too.
We’ve been working really, really hard.
We’ve been saving up money for so long.
We’ve been praying for that to happen.
And it just got handed to them. That ring just slid on her finger. That car was given as a present. That promotion or book deal or raise or position just fell into place. That baby magically appeared in her belly without any effort at all (I mean…you get it). It’s the worst when it seems like we’ve been planning, preparing, praying and hoping for something that seemingly gets tossed in someone else’s lap.
We want to cry, “but that should be MINE!!”
How did we get here? How did we get so lost in a whirlwind of our own selfishness that we are unable to celebrate our friends, family, and co-workers in their blessings, gifts and accomplishments?
How does everyone else’s thunder feel like it was stolen from us?
That, my friends, is what happens when comparison is given room in our heart.
When it is given space to tell lies and rob us of what really is ours… Peace. Self-worth. Satisfaction. Celebration. Those are the things that truly belong to us. Because those are the things that build fruitful, lasting relationships. And those are the things that grow beauty and strength and delight inside of us, far more than comparison or striving to be like someone else ever could.
So today, fight against comparison, and fight for all the things that really do belong to you.
Because you are wonderful. You are charming. You are the only you there is.
And that’s exactly the way it was intended to be.