Last week, I got together with a good group of friends for some drinks and catching up. All of us came from different walks of life, laughing, crying and sharing with one another. As we delved deeper into our struggles, one issue kept being brought to light: comparison. In some way or another, all of us struggled with comparing ourselves to others around us.
One of the moms talked about how perfect other moms’ kids were. They never misbehaved; they always looked cute in pictures. Another shared about her struggle with comparing herself to the girls she saw online—tall, skinny girls with perfect hair who always seemed to be at a new party with 100 different friends. One friend even talked about how she compared herself to her sister, and felt a bitterness and sadness develop in her heart when she didn’t think she was good enough.
I talked about my constant habit of comparing myself to other married women. I’m not a good cook, I don’t clean very often and I don’t find myself particularly enthralled with serving my husband’s every whim. I see other wives and think how amazing they are, how together their lives seem to be and how much they embody the definition of what it means to be a “wife.” With me, I constantly feel like I fall short.
Of course, you can’t talk about comparison without social media being thrown into the midst of the conversation.
Every single woman there shared how much of a struggle it is to see other females online who seem to have it all—the perfect appearance, perfect family, perfect job, perfectly embodying her roles in life. We all seemed to share the same problem of scrolling through pictures on Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest and seeing women who just seemed to be so much better than us.
I scroll through social media and see stunning women with their husbands, gorgeous families, in their immaculate houses, wearing the most beautiful clothes and going on incredible vacations. Naturally, as I continue to scroll deeper and deeper into the abyss of social media, my self-worth and confidence drop off the edge into self-deprecation and jealousy.
Why can’t my body be as toned as hers? Why is her smile so perfect? Her and her husband probably never argue. Her kids never misbehave. She has so many friends. Her house is always clean. Her clothes always looks so great. Everybody absolutely loves her.
These thoughts ring through my head, but louder than anything is the voice screaming: “You’re not good enough.”
And I believe it. I listen to that voice scream it over and over, and the words soak into the walls of my mind. We compare ourselves to other women around us, whether on social media or in real life, and constantly come to the conclusion that they are better than us, therefore we are not good enough.
But, this could not be further from the truth. Why do we torture ourselves like this? Why do we entertain these thoughts for any second of time? Why do we compare?
Instead, we should be connecting.
I once heard that when we compare ourselves to others, only one of two things happens: (1) we think we’re better than them, and feel pride, or (2) we think they’re better than us, and feel jealousy. Pride or jealousy. Those are the two options, and neither is worth desiring.
When we connect instead of compare, we build relationships with others, instead of tearing ourselves or them down.
Take social media for example. What could be used as a useful tool, we so often use as a dangerous weapon instead. But if we actually used it for what was intended–connecting with others in the world around us–how much more would our relationships flourish!
When we evaluate others, we see their main performance, then compare it to our behind the scenes. The truth is, we have no idea what their behind the scenes looks like. They could be struggling with the exact same things we struggle with. They could look at us and see us as the perfect ones, and wonder why they can’t be more like us. When we compare, we build up walls between ourselves and the people we compare to—walls of envy and bitterness. Connecting breaks down those walls, and exposes our behind the scenes, main performance and everything in between.
So, what does this look like? Practically, connecting means taking tangible steps to mentally acknowledge your own habits of comparison, and then working to break those habits. If you scroll through social media and feel that age-old sting of jealousy and bitterness, take the steps to disengage and reevaluate. Or, when you meet someone in person who seems to be so immaculately put together, recognize the self-deprecation in your heart and shift your mindset.
Connecting means literally taking the time to talk to people. That girl on social media who seems to have such a perfect life? Message her. Greet her. Get to know her. Build a relationship. That stranger in line at the coffee shop whose hair always looks amazing? Tell her. Talk to her. The friend who has the most amazing husband and kids? Dig deeper, and ask her how she’s really doing in life.
Connecting isn’t always easy, and it doesn’t always come naturally. Our society has built up walls and taught us how to put on the masks of perfection in front of everyone—to never let our feelings show. Connecting means putting in effort to get to know others on a deeper level, along with exposing some of your own vulnerabilities.
When we connect instead of compare, we build bridges instead of walls. We make room for friendship, love and trust, instead of pride or jealousy.
So the next time you feel the sting of comparison sneak into your heart and try to steal your joy, take a step back, realign and see how you can connect.