Have you ever been hit square in the face with comparison?
You’re walking along thorough life, feeling pretty confident in your own skin. You feel good enough, tall enough, strong enough, successful enough, small enough, like you’re in just the right place and stage of life, and then it happens … WHAM! Comparison.
Almost as if you’re being smacked with a 2×4, you see someone who has something you want but don’t have, or something you didn’t realize you wanted that bad, or someone who is all the things you feel like you can never be.
Sometimes it happens with us physically. You are feeling fine in your skin, beautiful even, and then you see someone who knocks your own beauty right out of the park leaving you feeling small, hideous and stupid for ever thinking you were good enough.
Or maybe it happens with relationships. You’re doing fine being single, feeling good even, and then your phone buzzes with a photo from your last single friend -- and it’s a photo of her and her boyfriend, snuggled together, tears in their eyes as she holds up her hand that’s sporting a sparkling diamond. You were doing fine, but now it feels like you’ve come down with the comparison equivalent of food poisoning — sudden, strong, and totally debilitating. Why her? Why not me? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I have her life? Why can’t I be more like her?
I came down with comparison food poisoning a few weeks ago, and if I’m honest I’m still having a hard time shaking it.
I was in a van in Georgia, having just been picked up for an event I was speaking at. It was a sorority event, and three of the women who organized it came to pick me up at the airport. They even brought a sign -- hot pink and huge -- “Lipstick Gospel Lands Here!”
I was thrilled to be there, over-the-moon about getting to spend a full day with the most amazing group of sorority girls, I was so honored that they’d invited me.
And as we were driving back to their school, we started talking about blogging.
One of them asked me, “I want to share my story. I really do. But it feels like everyone else is already doing what I want to do. It feels like the space is so crowded, like it’s already being done. I want to share my story, but it feels like the world doesn’t need it, it’s already being done by somebody else and being done better. How do you get over this?”
"COMPARISON IS THIS NASTY DISEASE THAT PLAGUES US AS WOMEN, AND I THINK THE FIRST STEP TO CURING SOMETHING IS ADMITTING IT'S THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE."
I’m well acquainted with this question, and I had an answer all ready to go.
I said, “Listen, other people may be sharing similar stories, or teaching similar things, but they don’t have your story, or your way of sharing it. And the story you have, and the exact way you will share it will resonate with a group of girls that might not resonate with her. And even if they resonate with both of you, there’s still not too much goodness or encouragement in the world. I think we can officially call the market saturated when every single person in the world knows Jesus, and knows themselves, and loves themselves, and knows how much they’re worth. But until that happens, the world needs your voice. So you have to keep sharing it!”
It’s my favorite answer to give, and one I believe in wholeheartedly. It’s something I think about all the time in moments when it feels like my voice may not matter, like my message is already being heard.
But then … completely out of the blue … comparison struck.
One of the sweet, amazing girls mentioned another blogger, mentioned how much this other girl’s blog has impacted her life, talked about how much their whole sorority loves this other girl, and that was it.
It was sudden, and violent, like food-poisoning always is.
I was totally overcome with comparison.
Now listen, I totally know the truth here, I had just shared the truth. Right? I love this other blogger, I love her work, she’s truly amazing! And on most days, I am the biggest fan of other women doing anything -- even if what we’re doing is similar.
But for some reason, in that moment, on that day, none of that mattered. The truth I knew, the truth I usually know couldn’t stop comparison from coming in and almost knocking me out. My face grew hot, my hands were clammy, my insides were immediately in a knot.
All of a sudden I couldn’t think of anything except for how not good enough I am. I couldn’t think of anything but how far behind I suddenly felt. I couldn’t think of anything except for the fact that the place I thought I occupied in the world was totally occupied by somebody else, and that somebody else was doing it better, and I would never, ever catch up.
So at this point, I have to tell you that it’s a little embarrassing to admit this. It really is.
Especially because I know the wonderful girls in that car are going to know what I’m talking about, who I’m talking about, it’s really humbling to open the curtains and let people peek into the broken thoughts that sometimes fill our heads.
But this happens sometimes. Doesn’t it? It happens to me, and it happens to you, and it was happening to them. It happens in all areas of our lives -- our love lives, our weight, our appearance, our careers.
Comparison is this nasty disease that plagues us as women, and I think the first step to curing something is admitting it’s there in the first place.
So now would be the moment when I tell you three simple steps to beating comparison, and three more to preventing it from ever coming back again. But I don’t have those for you today. I don’t have them for me today.
This happened weeks ago, and I’m still wrestling feelings of not being good enough, of falling behind, wrestling the impulse to strive to catch up, or check into what everyone else is doing and trying to compete.
And so while it feels totally crazy to leave a blog post without a bow on top, here’s what I want to say:
If you struggle with comparison sometimes, you’re not alone. I do too. Sometimes I have a handle on it, and sometimes -- like today -- I totally, completely don’t.
But here’s what I also know: Comparison is the thief of joy. It really, really is.
We get nowhere when we compare ourselves to each other, we just lose the ability to proudly, confidently be us -- contributing to the world in a way that is totally our own, in a way nobody can steal, or diminish.
So we can’t succumb to comparison. It happens, absolutely, but we have to fight it.
We have to fight it by admitting it to the people we love, opening up the windows to the broken parts of our heart, letting people in to help us figure it out.
We have to fight it by repeating the truth to ourselves -- that God loves us, that He created us with a purpose, that the way God created us is absolutely good enough, and that God’s economy works differently than ours -- there’s more than enough to go around.
And, as we fight it, we have to keep going in what we know God is calling us to do. We have to keep singing our song, preaching the Word, sharing our story, being beautifully and strongly us.
Even with comparison RAGING in my heart that weekend, I still had to get up on stage and share the story God has written on my life. I had to do it even though my insides felt so sick, even though I felt so entirely not good enough, and you know what? God still used it.
He’s so faithful like that.
He has a place in the world for you, and for me. He has a story for you, and for me. He has gifts for you and for me. He has a plan for my life and for your life, and nobody can take those things away.
So sweet friend, here’s to fighting comparison with everything we have, and to singing our song anyway, as we practice believing that how God created us is good enough, and that there’s more than enough goodness to go around.