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Why Comparison Will Always Leave You Stuck and How to Overcome It

“No matter how much you practice, you will never be able to hit a vocal run like her.” 

“You could never look as stylish as she does.”  

“She makes it look so easy, why can’t you get it together like that?”

Would your bestie say any of these things to you?  Probably not. Always there with you, but not always there for you, these inner thoughts are susceptible to fear, doubt, and all manner of accusation!

How many times have you set a goal for yourself and started working feverishly toward that end, only to succumb to discouragement when you notice someone else has done it sooner, bigger, better?  How many times have you met your goal only to discredit your results by valuing someone else’s achievement over your own?  The villain in this story is not “someone else”.  And honestly, It’s not even you.  The villain here is wrapped up, tied up, and tangled up in one word:  COMPARISON!     

Comparison tells you that you aren’t enough:  You aren’t smart enough, good enough, creative enough, beautiful enough, thin enough, large enough…

ENOUGH already!  Yes, I’ve had enough of enough.  What about you?  

Are you ready to rid yourself of this self-imposed limitation that acts like a bully blocking your entrance into joy, courage, and success?  Few things will kill your pursuit of purpose like comparison! It causes discouragement and tempts you to procrastinate in working on a new goal.  It drains your motivation and blurs your focus.  So, how do you kick this nasty habit?

When they measure themselves with themselves and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding and behave unwisely.   —II Corinthians 10:13

Embrace Your Uniqueness

Comparing yourself to other people is a strong indication that you either do not know who you are, so you try to define yourself based on what you see around you.  Or you know who you are, but lack a full appreciation of your value and your own personal greatness.  Whether you compare your physical attributes, mental brilliance and aptitude, talent, or achievements to that of another, you are failing to truly consider your uniqueness and the value that only you can bring to the table. I can remember the first time in my life where comparison caused me severe emotional grief and mental anguish:

Denise, in Junior High School.  She was pretty, but it wasn’t her looks that tripped me up.  Perhaps it would’ve been easier if it were; maybe I could’ve just made peace with her beauty as something given to her because of her parents’ genes and nothing should take credit for!  No, it was her personality, her demeanor, her sense of humor, and her ability to talk to anyone.  I didn’t want to be as pretty as her, I wanted to be like her.  The problem was anytime I tried to change my behavior, my facial expressions, my voice, or anything about myself, I felt like a complete idiot—not to mention a fraud.  After struggling with what to do with my feelings, one day I finally just made a decision. I decided I was good at being me, and enough people seemed to like me as I was so, why bother? 

Set your mind on what you do well with very little effort. Consider what you get excited about and develop any of the missing skills or abilities you might need to build. Your uniqueness is your superpower…embrace it!

Define Success for Yourself

We tend to compare our accomplishments, influence, or reputation to that of others as a form of validation and a measure of our success.  You compare what you’re doing or have done well.  You compare what you’ve acquired, or some other measure-valued by the masses.  When you don’t fully understand your role in the world, you rate yourself (and sometimes your life) based on the standards of success set by society and the culture.  The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) use to tell his opponents, “know your role”.  When you know your role and you have a definite goal and purpose, you feel more secure in where you are destined to make your mark. Comparison won’t deter or distract you. The key is to decide on what success looks like for you, and celebrate your progress as well as your goal attainment–no matter how big or small.

In my early twenties, I connected with a bible teaching church.  It was here that I learned about spiritual gifts.  It was here that I learned I was created to add something to this world, not just to survive it!  Queue confusion…  Unfortunately, it was also here that I began to struggle to discover what all that meant for me specifically.  The “church” is almost one of the toughest places to become who you have been created to be.  Pardon me if I stepped on your church toes!  I simply mean that it is too easy to look at those in the church that you feel like have already ‘arrived’ and begin to hold yourself to their standard.  I found myself comparing my spiritual maturity, my strengths (and weaknesses), and my service; I even judged myself for struggling to know what my gifts and my calling was! I finally learned that I had to put on blinders and focus on clarifying what I did well, naturally, and with great conviction and satisfaction. I had to look at the work I felt God leading me to and discover how to get there.

So, how do you discover your assignment?  Friend, I assure you, you won’t find it by looking around you (even inside the church)!  YOUR assignment lies within who created you and how you were created.  Look up and look within! Then look at what kind of things people come to you for; what you are known for.

Prioritize Appreciation over Ambition

If you aren’t careful, comparison can stir up discontentment. Weighing your opportunities, your circumstances, or your very life against what you perceive of others around you can make you question if you are blessed.  A strong faith-based perspective of who God is and who you are to Him helps you to remember that He’s on your side, He’s generous, withholding nothing good from you. This helps you remain grateful for what you do have while staying hopeful in pursuit of the dreams you have yet to achieve. Comparison not only tells you that you are lacking something, but also it tries to convince you that your goals are out of reach!

Have you ever compared your journey to someone else’s and become discontent? I mean, social media is a comparison hotspot, right? It’s always flashing someone else’s highlight reel in your face. I don’t know that I would have survived my identity crisis years if we’d had the internet back then! I’m pretty sure I’d be an anxious, worry-wart wishing and longing for the lifestyles of the latest social media personage!

By my late 20’s, I had achieved a graduate degree, landed a consulting job with a high-profile firm, traveled the nation to work with clients, married and started a family, and bought a house!  The checklist was complete.  I’d given myself the stamp of “arrival”. Then one day I looked up and my brother’s checklist also seemed complete, only his level of success afforded his family something that my level of success could not support for me and my family.  I felt the worst sense of not okayness.  I had worked longer and harder (by my estimation), and I really really wanted to be able to stay-at-home with my newly expanded family. I’d never wanted that before we started having kids, so there was nothing in the plan for this new desire (we earned good money, but we were surrounded by debt).  By this time I was mature and wise enough to know that I was dealing with two very dangerous spirits…the first was comparison, which gave birth to the second (that’s a conversation for another day).  I had to actively submit my heart to God and seek a revelation!  I had to answer some tough questions about my own desires, motives, mindsets, and ambitions.  It took over a year before finally breaking free from comparison. 

What was I lacking?  First of all, gratitude.  Had I better appreciated what I did have, my focus wouldn’t have shifted to what I didn’t have!  Second, I lacked vision—a clear vision.  I lacked an understanding of the destiny designed for me.  How can you ever write your own story when you are focused on someone else’s?  How can you maximize the opportunities, and rise to your occasions if you minimize them?  How can you pursue, develop and maximize the great things in store on your path when you are lusting after someone else’s?  The old church cliche’ “What God has for you is for you”, is true.  Fix your focus!  

Rise & Shine

The next time you find yourself tempted to compare, remember that you are judging yourself and God.  Yourself for not measuring up to some faulty standard, and God for withholding something from you.  Neither of these will serve you well.

Consider Peter’s conversation with Jesus (Jesus was telling Peter of his assignment)—I applaud Peter for the courage to confront Jesus like this.  The problem was that he actually lost his focus on his lot in life and turned to look at John when he asked:

21 … “Lord, what about him?”

22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 

—John 21:20-24 (NIV)

Thanks to our brother Peter, we are reminded to mind our business and remain focused on our own assignment!  So, how do you overcome comparing? 

Ask yourself, why am I even comparing?   Find the value in who you are and the good things you bring to the table.  Remind yourself of (or discover if you don’t know) what you are supposed to be doing, (hint: your assignment will be something that comes almost as naturally as breathing, but you’ll have to develop it and draw it out.  It will also positively impact others and bring glory to God), and compete with yourself to do it.  You have your own assignment.  Focus. Rise up. And Shine!     

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