I recently read this great article on well-known people who were late bloomers when it came to success. This got me started on a train of thought about how often I feel unsuccessful and “behind” everyone else my age. Not that I consider myself old by any means, but we live in a culture that puts a lot of emphasis on being successful at a young age. You go to college, graduate in four years, get a “good job”, get your Mrs. degree, have two children (a boy and a girl), be a good person, and then you’re “successful”.
Lately, I’ve realized just how wrong that definition of success is! I haven’t really met many of the above expectations and it’s been easy for me to feel like a failure as a result, especially in regards to my career. But here’s the kicker, my lack of self-worth came about because I started comparing myself with others. I compared my situation in life to theirs and subsequently thought that my life was lacking.
In high school, I compared my grades to my friends’. I wanted to be the smartest or at least one of the smartest in my class. There were also the body image comparisons. Oy.
In college, I compared my intellect and artwork with that of other students. I felt like my value was rooted in how smart I was. And with my artwork, insecurity arose if I felt my art didn’t measure up to someone else’s.
In the years since I’ve seen more examples of how comparison is a common downfall in the creative world. You see something beautiful that someone has created and can’t help thinking, “Why am I not able to create something like that? Why don’t I have that ability or their eye for creativity?” Or more recently, “Why don’t I have as many followers as they do? Why is my business not booming like theirs?”
And what has all of that comparison gotten me?
Misery. A lack of self-worth and self-confidence. And here’s the one I’m not excited to admit: the ugliness of PRIDE when I felt I was smarter or better than someone else. Nothing good—NOTHING GOOD—has come from comparing myself to others!
Comparison has been the bane of my existence for most of my life and you know what?
It’s time to kill that beast!
Comparison is a symptom of insecurity, the root cause of which is not knowing where your value comes from. Our value and our worth do not come from people or things. They come from God alone. Trying to find fulfillment through any means except through God is fruitless and pointless. All you’ll end up with is an empty and broken heart. Psalm 139 is such a great testament to where our value comes from. It shows just how much God values us. How well He knows us.
“All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.” (Psalm 139:16 NIV)
You have dreams and goals for your life. But the minute you start comparing where you are in life to where someone else is your progress toward your vision STOPS. You become the runner who’s too busy looking back at the guy who’s gaining on him that you end up losing the race. Looking at what someone else is doing or how they’re living causes you to lose focus on what your purpose is, what your goals are, what your vision for your life is, and, much more importantly, what God’s vision for your life is!
There’s this beautiful quote from the 2006 adaptation of Jane Eyre that ties in nicely to Psalm 139: “He was the first to recognise me, and to love what he saw.” Of course, in the context of that miniseries Jane is talking about Mr. Rochester seeing and loving her but that’s how I view God’s love for us. He was the first one to see, know and love you. Before ANYONE ELSE knew you, God knew you. Take that to heart and remember that when you start to compare yourself with others.
“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14 NIV)
I want to encourage you to stay the course. To remember why you started on your path in the first place and to keep your eyes on God. Let Him be your navigator. Don’t chart your course using someone else’s map! Or you’ll end up in the wrong place every single time.
Have you ever fallen into the trap of comparing yourself, your work, your appearance, or your situation in life with others? What are some ways you have been able to overcome the comparison trap?
P.S. Uh, yeah, so this post is hard-hitting compared to my previous two. This was one of those things where, once I started writing, it was hard to stop.
Was I nervous to publish this?
Uh, DUH. I didn’t want to flay myself before all of you and expose my weaknesses! I value honesty and transparency in others but the irony is that it’s hard for me to be honest and transparent about things I usually keep close to my vest.