Comparison happens naturally, without thinking many times.
If you’ve ever put down your phone feeling worse than you did when you first picked it up, then you’ve probably been there.
Your thoughts toward yourself become more doubtful.
You find yourself more frustrated.
You begin to feel behind and discontent with your place in life.
Feelings of admiration for this person become displaced envy.
It’s all so implicit- a subtle takeover and arrest of your mind and spirit,
stealing your contentment, your peace, and sense of self.
We know this happens. Most of us understand the damage comparison can cause in a social media world of “highlight reels”, especially on our youth whose identity and brains are still developing (one of many reasons I’m all for Instagram removing likes and depressurizing an image-driven social media world). And because society has become overwhelmingly aware of this damage, some take the other extreme of feeling the need to air everything on the internet, for the sake of authenticity, so others don’t assume their life is perfect. You feel this obligation to tell your friends and followers your whole truth. Yet, the parts that we do show are still just a fraction of ourselves and of our lives. And that’s okay. Knowing a person is naturally, gradually earned.
I personally land somewhere in the middle.
I believe in the power of our stories and that there is value in sharing them- and if we genuinely feel led to do so then it can be a gift. Stories and raw truths help us feel less alone in a complicated mix of emotions.
Still, we don’t owe the internet everything. These ideas we hold ourselves to of what we have to be and how we have to show up online are constructs we’ve created- in our own minds or picked up from watching others. They aren’t actual rules. You don’t have to show up in the way others show up in order to be worthy. You don’t owe the internet access to all of your life.
The breakup. The ongoing separation. The conflicts happening in your marriage. The mental break down. The unresolved drama between you and another. The trauma you just experienced. The unexpected life change. The loss you’re still processing.
Even the good things. The promotions, the growth opportunities, and life lessons you’re still trying to apply within your own life.
Your timeline of sharing or not sharing is your own. Boundaries are healthy and often necessary for personal growth and healing.
This is especially in the case of those who have a number of followers who are well-meaning connections but, in reality, are strangers. These are not our counselors, our closest friends, or those accountably doing life with us. While some connection is better than no connection, the illusion of social media is that we’re closer to people than we really are. These are called para-social relationships and it’s part of what drives the addiction.
It’s why we have a generation addicted to the Kardashians and reality TV. We’re convinced we know people and have invited them into a space of our lives. We feel as though we’re being social and experiencing an intimate connection without having to do the work of actually being social or the vulnerability of true intimacy, which is mutually reciprocal.
Okay, it’s not so black-and-white. It’s not all bad or all good. It’s how we use an online media tool and simultaneously understanding the importance of meeting real-life needs.
All of that being said, comparison happens. And it doesn’t always mean that you’re discontent with your life or feeling unfulfilled. It just happens.
I’ve seen a popular statement floating around to block and unfollow those who make you unhappy. The truth is, no one has the full responsibility to make you feel anything. Those perspectives are mainly held by you and your state of mind or personal projections. The issue is in here, not “out there”, where many times we overestimate others and underestimate ourselves. It’s easy to blame because it’s harder to do the internal work that points back to our own thought dysfunctions. But yes, by all means, we have the freedom to create boundaries around the type of content that will help shape us and our thoughts in healthy growth instead of vain ambitions.
I’m a believer in the idea that we eradicate unhealthy emotions by walking through them, not skipping around them or purely ignoring them. If we don’t deal with these emotions, it’s only so long before they deal with us. Comparison and envy are of those emotions. So, here are a couple ways to start seeing comparison in a new light when you feel its grips drawing you in.
Comparison is misplaced admiration.
Comparison, while normal, is counterproductive. Instead, try asking yourself:
“What is it that’s drawing me to them? Is it their work ethic, their willingness to take risks, their boldness of conviction, their mastery of skill?”
Then consider how these may simply be areas you want to improve in. And that’s okay.
Many times, we’re actually seeing qualities in others that we want to grow in ourselves or we may admire the way they carry out their skill but it’s not for us; in which we have to embrace our individual differences. They have their areas of strength and you are growing in your own. Learn to separate the two.
Internal work is more valuable.
The right amount of strategy, angle and consistency can now create a pretty expansive platform for any type of person. And I’m not knocking strategy or hard work- they’re essential and admirable. However, the unintended consequence of image-based media and quick rises to fame is that we can become a culture that overvalues outward appearances, status, followers, and presentation.
I’m convinced your internal growth is much more valuable and sustaining, regardless of where others are in their achievements. Character, conviction, and integrity are underrated because they’re less entertaining and grow in the hidden valleys of life. Yet, the works you produce will only go as deep as the work you’ve done with your own soul. These convictions aren’t based on popular approval.
Conviction is the prodding and poking of the spirit that reminds you when you aren’t aligned with who you are made to be, the hard and righteous thing you ought to do, and the necessary boundaries as they align with where life is calling you.
Image says I should do this because people will approve, it will open such doors, my works will be recognized, and my name respected. Conviction says I have to do this. It would be outside of my being to not do this. Any opportunities achieved are the byproduct of the character of my work and its righteous indignation, for reasons besides myself.
In conviction we find ourselves in this flow of true peace and fulfillment because you are in your lane; you are in the center of God’s will. And we all have to pause long enough to give our convictions space in a world oversaturated with content and achievements constantly snatching our attention.
What if we saw these qualities, instead, as a mark of success? I think they are.
You are most empowered in your calling, by growing in the way that God is currently shaping you according to your makeup and the purpose over your life. Never forfeit that.