In trendy workout clothes, she drops off her four well-behaved children at preschool. She smiles, says hello and hops back in her SUV hoping to get in a run before going to work and leading her Bible study that evening. The 5 Best Ways to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
As I park the car, I slap on my hat, tucking my naturally frizzy hair underneath, hoping no one notices I’m not wearing any makeup – all the while comparing myself to the other mom and wondering why I can’t seem to get my life together.
This is not a new struggle for me.
Whether it’s the mom at my daughter’s preschool last week or the cover of Seventeen magazine when I was in high school, the problem is still the same. Comparison can be a struggle at any age, but I have become increasingly aware of its ability to steal my joy as a mom.
How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Even in Old Testament times, we see women neck-deep in the quicksand of comparison.
In Genesis 29, Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, travels to Paddan Aram in search of a Hebrew bride. Upon seeing Rachel shepherd her sheep, it’s love at first sight and he weeps with joy. He meets with her father and they reach an agreement for him to shepherd the sheep for 7 years in exchange for Rachel’s hand in marriage.
7 years pass and poor, unsuspecting Jacob wakes up in his “honeymoon suite” to realize the woman laying beside him was not Rachel at all, but her older sister Leah. Their father had tricked Jacob into marrying Rachel’s sister to get more work out of him.
Jacob, although livid, is determined to marry Rachel so he agrees to work 7 more years to finally marry her.
Once married, the next several years are filled strife and hard feelings between the two sisters married to the same man. They bitterly compete to bear children with Jacob. At different points, they even used their slave girls to bear children on their behalf with their husband.
In those days, the ability to bear numerous children was a status symbol for women among family and the community. Both sisters wanted the love of their husband, the approval of others and to feel valued. They were willing to go to great lengths to compete with their own flesh and blood and by any means necessary.
Friends, fortunately we will never have to compete with a sister wife to see who can have the most children. But we still mentally wrestle with thoughts of comparison towards other women.
In the same way, I can easily compare myself to other women bloggers: How will I ever write like she can? Why can’t my images look more professional like hers? Why can’t my house look like that?
Seeing our true value in Christ prevents us from having a misplaced self worth. We can see we have tremendous value because of who we are in Him and that there is no need to compete for His love and approval because they are lavished on us in infinite measure. In other words, He will never run out!
When we unintentionally believe the lie that our own value is tied to our status and others’ approval, we compete with our sisters in Christ over resources that could only leave us empty and unfulfilled.
As I worked on these side tables, I thought about Leah and Rachel. They kept looking to one another to define their own value. But their true worth and beauty could only be realized in what Christ did on the cross. It is a gift of grace that Christ repurposes us for His glory and that is where our true value lies.
When we take off our greed-tinted glasses, we can see who we really are – dearly loved children of the Creator of the Universe. It’s then we can appreciate that He has uniquely repurposed our lives into something of great worth. Like an upcycled antique, He not only gives our existence relevance but gives us new form and function.
Comparison with other women over status, belongings or talents is a slippery slope, placing our value in things that will never ultimately fulfill us apart from the Lord. As I mentioned in my post How to Escape the Overcommitment Trap, we have to be on guard against thoughts that distract us from our God-given priorities.
RENOVATED THINKING: The world puts value in job title, income level, family pedigree, children, spouse, appearance and a myriad of other factors. Often we begin struggle to find our worth and measure it by these areas instead of the simple fact that we are each a child of God, dearly loved by Him.
Like asking to borrow a friend’s wedding dress, we can’t simply “try on” someone else’s blessings and expect them to fit us. And why would we want to? God has given us our own special talents, calling and attributes tailored to fit us perfectly. (Check out my post How To Find Your Calling here.)
True blessings are gifts God has uniquely given to someone and they are meant to bless others as well. Therefore, if we want to be blessed in the true sense of the word, we have to go to the Source and realize that we are each given specialized gifts. We can’t expect to be fulfilled by emulating others.
When we lose our vertical focus on our value in Christ and shift to a horizontal focus on how others’ value us, we are sure to fall into one of these two pitfalls:
- Inferiority– We experience shame when we feel inferior to the object of our comparison, as a result of a lack of confidence in our identity in Christ.
- Superiority – Comparison can make us feel superior and leads to pride. Sadly, my feelings of inferiority towards “super mom” in the parking lot, may ultimately turn into disparaging thoughts about her to make myself feel better.
In both extremes, the focus is on self instead of God, making each a losing battle.
How To Stop Comparing Your Life to Others – 5 Tips
1. Reset Your Focus
As we see in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25), God rewards those who are faithful with the gifts they are given. It’s not about what you have but what you do with what you have.
When our minds are clouded of thoughts of comparison, we are distracted from using our gifts we do have because we are focused on the gifts of others. Not only do we give up our own blessing from being faithful with our gifts but we deprive others of that blessing as well.
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2. Remember Perfection is an Illusion
“Super moms” only exist in the realm of social media and our own false perception of others. Our struggle with comparison is disappears when we realize we aren’t making comparisons to reality.
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Whether it’s the magazine on your coffee table or your friend’s Instagram feed, there is always an illusion of effortless perfection. When consumed with comparison, we forget that so often social media isn’t an accurate depiction of reality. Even when it is, someone else’s success is not your failure.
3. Remember Where You Started
Reflecting on how God has transformed us gives us new perspective. It shifts our focus from the false imperfections of our present to the true depravity of our past. Like a broken piece of furniture destined for a trash heap, he sands us, primes us and refinishes us into what He truly created us to be. Remember this helps us to be grateful for who we are because our differences are gifts to embrace, not weaknesses to criticize.
4. Stay Within Your Boundaries.
Watching my daughter at the pool, I noticed several lifeguards on duty. As I watched, I realized each one was responsible for one section of the pool – one 10 x 10 foot area.
They were accountable for the kids that came in and out of that one square…nothing else. Their one job was to keep focused on their area.
Sometimes do you feel like you are in charge of the entire pool? Do you feel like someone else’s square is better than yours? Maybe theirs is in the deep end and yours is in the shallow. Or theirs is in a shadier part of the pool.
Well, I have good news for you. God has only put you in charge of one square. Focus on that and don’t borrow tasks, roles or responsibilities that belong to someone else. Don’t worry about the rest of the pool.
Learning how to stop comparing yourself to others can mean not looking toward them in the first place. (Want to know more about staying in your boundaries? Check out my post How To Escape the overcommitment Trap here.)
5. Remember Who He is.
What we need is not repeated self-assurance, but to look to Him, affirming that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). It is not enough to merely look at ourselves in self-reflection.
Jen Wilkin says it best in a recent post: “Our primary problem as Christian women is not that we lack self worth. We lack awe.” When we focus on God, our struggle with comparison dissipates. We come to realize that everything and everyone pales in comparison to the surpassing greatness of our God.
It is incredible to think of the amazing power of God and to know that He loves YOU as His very own.
Did you catch that friend? He doesn’t just love us as a collective, nameless void of women. He loves (your name here) more than you can even comprehend and He wants to lavish you with the blessing of knowing Him more.
By spending regular time with Him and remembering our role in His plan, we can reprogram our thinking. By focusing on Him, we can extend His very own love and grace to them but also we let ourselves off the hook.
We free ourselves us to be the woman God has created us to be, not a contrived amalgamation of our perception of others, but women that share God’s love through our uniqueness, not in spite of it.
Isaiah 30:21 states, “Whether you look to the left or the right there will be a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’” This verse always reminds me of a horse with blinders. When we stare in any direction long enough, we will ultimately follow that path.
We have to keep our eyes on Him in order to follow Him. Then, we can see ourselves as who we really are – unconditionally, loved and valued by the only One whose opinion matters.
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