The Pitfall of Comparison

Written by Agnes Lee, Singapore

I can’t stop comparing myself to others. “Is he smarter than me? Is she prettier than me? Does she have more friends than I do?” While it can sound like an innocent habit, I ended up being sucked into it, unable to be thankful for whatever I had.

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

As a teenager transiting into adulthood, my focus shifted. I compared my physical appearance to others’.  At my first job, I compared my salary with my friends’. I looked at the material possessions they had—their new clothes and new cars—and wondered if I could afford the same things.

Once I started, I could not 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 these 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 and it became an endless pursuit that left me more tired than satisfied. I didn’t occur to me that I needed something magnificent and eternal—God—to fill the void in my heart.

In the end, my toxic habit of comparison made me lose a good friend of mine. At my first job, I got to know another lady who was a fresh graduate just like myself.  We joined the same department and were tasked to do the same role at work. We learned the ropes together and everything seemed to be going well.  However, 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, while I was short and average looking.  She was friendly and sociable, while I was reserved and quiet.  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,” I would think to myself.

Jealous of how she seemed to have everything going well in her life, I started ignoring her and giving her strange glances.  I could not accept that I was inferior to her.

She was naturally puzzled and angry by my actions and our friendship soon soured.  Fed up with my behavior, she started ignoring me and voiced her displeasure of me to others. We were no longer on talking terms, and soon, I felt like a loner in the company. I left the organization and lost contact with everyone there.

 

A New Perspective

 Many years later, after I came to know the Lord, I was reflecting on my quiet time passage from 1 Corinthians 12:15-18.  It struck me that all of us are different from each other for a reason—it allows us play a different role in the Body of Christ. That 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 was not that others were better than I am. It was with my own negative perception about myself.

Psalm 139:13-14 gave me great reassurance. 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—How I am is exactly the way God intended.

God has given us different gifts and talents (Romans 12:6a) along with different looks. His thoughts and wisdom are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9) and He has planned a unique life for each of one of us that only we can live.

A life of endless comparison is not in His plan for us. Rather than wasting our lives away in such a manner and 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 can be secure and will not be easily shaken by the world.

As I became convicted by this truth, I found myself increasing my love for God. His views became mine and I wanted to do His will and love those around me. I thank God that He has increasingly freed 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 will remind myself of His truth from the living Word, of His sovereign will and unique plans for me during my limited time on earth.

Overtime, 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 apologize to her, with hopes of eventual reconciliation.

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

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