Avoiding the Comparison Trap
Updated: May 12
The thoughts came at random. They came frequently, but with no obvious triggers, like something someone said or did. Their timing, however, was impeccable. The thoughts didn't come when I was busy at work or playing with my kids. The thoughts came in my quietest moments, shortly after waking and while getting myself ready for the day ahead.
They came when I should have been reflecting on my morning devotions and listening for what God was trying to say to me. But these thoughts, they were so loud, so ominous, that whatever God was trying to say, I couldn't hear it. All I could hear was the voice in my head questioning why I couldn't be like her.
Her. She was no stranger -- not some out of reach celebrity whom I'd have no chance of knowing. She was someone I'd known for years. We hung out together, laughed together, cried together. We ran with some of the same folks. She was my friend. But despite all we had in common, all my eyes could see was how different we were.
She was the social butterfly with the infectious laugh, who, even in our younger years, knew what she wanted and was never afraid to go after it. Apparently, as full-fledged adults, nothing had changed. From what I could see, she was doing her thing. And I mean doing her thing! I, on the other hand, the introvert who was much less aggressive, was, in my mind, doing okay, but not nearly as well. I had a good job, but it wasn’t glamorous. I wasn’t living out the life that I’d envisioned, and I felt, in a way, incomplete. Mind you, my life wasn’t bad. Not by any means. But I was so blinded by what I saw her doing, by how it looked, and by how I thought it looked to other people, that I completely disregarded the fact that my life was actually pretty good (and still is). I was trapped by comparison.
Comparison was sucking up every bit of joy I had. It was making me bitter and ungrateful. It was making me greedy; and it was causing me to question God and to doubt whether Jeremiah 29:11 was true -- that His plans for me were in indeed promising. (“For I know the plans I have for you” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”). I was miserable and longed for a way out – a way to escape my feelings and the voices in my head that kept feeding me doubt and discontentment.
They say the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. That’s what I had to do.
1. I had to come to grips with my feelings, admitting first that I had an issue and then try to pinpoint why my issue was even an issue to begin with. Was it because my friend’s social circle had grown from “average Joe’s" to “well-knowns” or the seemingly lavish life she was living that had me tormenting myself? It wasn’t. You know what bothered me? It was the fact that she’d found her passion. She’d figured out how to connect her passion and gifts with her purpose, and she was living that thing out like there was no tomorrow. I wasn’t doing that and so I felt empty. I knew what I was passionate about and what I did well. I just didn’t know what to do with it all. But I knew who to ask.
2. I asked God for direction. If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. (James 1:5 NLT) Who better to give me direction on how to use my gifts and passions than the one who gave them to me – and for a purpose that pleases Him? I thought admitting my issue was the hardest part of escaping the comparison trap until I had to come before God and be so completely open and vulnerable, admitting that I didn’t have all the answers. I didn’t have any answers for that matter. But even before asking God for anything, I had to repent for my ungratefulness, greed and doubt that God had already positioned me for greatness. This was the beginning of being able to focus on doing what pleased Him rather what I thought would please people.
3. I disconnected – not from family and friends, but from social media, which was what was fueling the fire of comparison. Every time I logged on, she was there. So, when I realized that her never-ending feed of controlled content was controlling me, my emotions and self-perception, I took a step back. I disengaged so that I could focus, and this time hear what God was trying to say to me without the distraction that social media brings. Social media only perpetuated a desire to please people. But I had to stop and consider: Am I now trying to win the favor and approval of men, or of God? Or am I seeking to please someone else? If I were still trying to be popular with men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10 AMP).
4. I listened. With the biggest distraction out of the way, I could finally stop and listen for what God was trying to say to me. I could let Him instruct me and show me the way I should go. I could now let Him guide me (Psalms 32:8) which, being burdened with comparison, I couldn’t do before because I couldn’t hear past the voices in my own head. But finally, His voice was the only one that I heard – and the one that mattered most. After a while, ideas started coming. God started showing me how to use the gifts and passions that He’d given me for a purpose that was so much bigger than me. And when it all came together, every comparison that I’d ever made between myself and anyone else became irrelevant.
I escaped the comparison trap, and I guess you can say I’m now in my happy place. Here. Sharing with you how to avoid getting caught up in comparison in the first place. Each of you is special and designed by a God who is intentional and makes no mistakes. The first step in avoiding the comparison trap is believing that. Believe you are who He says you are even if you don’t see it right now. Walk like you believe. Talk like you believe. Live like you believe it so you won’t be tempted to live like anyone else. Be humble enough to ask God for wisdom. Be quiet long enough to hear His response. Be focused enough not to let your vision or people’s perceptions become bigger than His plans and purpose for your life. Instead, be obedient enough to act on what He said. Be patient enough to watch His plans for your life unfold. Be YOU…because as the saying goes, everyone else is taken.