The ‘c’ word

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I’ve just written a pretty tough chapter in the book. It’s all about the ‘c’ word – comparison.

To be honest, I hadn’t expected it to be so close to the bone. Sure, blah-di-blah-di-blah, we know we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others. But I have had to confess. I am constantly doing it. Constantly. I suffer from obsessive comparison disorder.

Brene Brown explains in The Gift of Imperfection that we often feel the need to compare ourselves with people similar to us or people in situations similar to our own.

She writes:

“Comparison is all about conformity and competition. At first it seems like conforming and competing are mutually exclusive, but they’re not. When we compare, we want to see who or what is best out of a specific collection of ‘alike things’. We may compare things like how we parent with parents who have totally different values or traditions than us, but the comparisons that get us really riled up are the ones we make with the folks living next door, or on our child’s soccer team, or at our school. We don’t compare our houses to the mansions across town; we compare our yard to the yards on our block. When we compare, we want to be the best or have the best of our group.The comparison mandate becomes this crushing paradox of ‘fit in and stand out!’ It’s not cultivate self-acceptance, belonging, and authenticity; it’s be just like everyone else, but better.”

That’s why if you’re a friend of mine, and a woman, I’ve probably compared myself to you. Because we are “alike things”.

I think you’d be surprised at the constant internal monologue that’s going on inside my head. Is she cleverer than me? Does she have a boyfriend? How many books has she written? How many Twitter followers does she have? Does she have a bigger flat? Does she have children? Has she got a better job? Is she busier than me? Does she write better than me? Is she kinder? Is she a better cook? Is she more beautiful?

This constant wittering, this comparison paranoia, is draining and hurtful. Because when I look around at other people, I more often than not come up lacking, which makes me feel pretty bad about myself.

But it’s not just bad for me. When I feel bad about myself because I compare myself to others and find I am not as good, or have not achieved what my friends have, then I can’t be a good friend to them. I can’t cheer for them and spur them on in whatever good things are happening in their lives.

Because comparison’s allies are jealousy and competition and neither make for a peaceful life.

Being forced to confront my thoughts about other people – my friends – I’m totally ashamed. My friend Hannah recently challenged a group of women at our church. She asked us whether we would be as happy for someone else succeeding – getting married, winning an award, writing a book, losing weight, getting a great job – as we would be if it were us succeeding. And, bang, it hit me. I realised the extent of my problem.

Christ challenges us to love our neighbours as ourselves. But I’m not sure I have really done this, even for my friends. I would say I love my friends, but I really want to get to a place where I love them in that radical way that Jesus calls us to love. Completely, honestly and fully. I want to love them so much that I am genuinely their biggest fan; cheering them on for every success, every good thing in their lives, as if it were mine. Loving them so much that there is no room for jealousy, no ugly need to better their success, no tiresome drive to outdo them or to belittle the good things in their life.

I want to really love them; to tell them that in every area of their life they really are good, of worth, loved, valuable and beautiful.

Am I the only one who compares myself to others? Would love some company… 

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6 thoughts on “The ‘c’ word

  1. I think comparison is inherent in women. I think at times it can be worse in churches. There seems to be something within that tends to go for comparison and competition rather than care. We have an idea of what a woman should be and attempt to be like that. We meet people who seem to fit that and try to emulate them.

    Why is that? We need to be better at encouraging each other, highlighting for other women the attributes that make them shine. Let’s start now!

  2. True and oh so challenging Chine. It’s funny but sometimes I feel that because I’m now so much more aware of all this, I should be free from it. It’s a constant decision but I get hope from truth that while our outer self is wasting away or inner selves are being renewed day by day. Such a relief when I get frustrated with myself for slipping back into unhelpful thought patterns. Thank you for your honesty hon, it’s genuinely wonderful to be part of a community of women who challenge and spur each other on.

  3. Your honesty is very inspiring and you are definitely not alone. An experiment I tried once, and may start again, was to remind myself to say out loud in the form of a compliment the thoughts in my head that came from a place of jealousy. For example, ‘your hair looks great today’ / ‘That dress looks great on you’ instead of ‘How does she get her hair to do that’ / ‘Why don’t I have a figure like that’. It made me feel better to say the positive thing, and I think they are the most genuine compliments I could give really! I should start doing it again.

  4. Brilliant post – as usual – Chine. Your words are all so true – and you are not alone in being ashamed of how often that comparison hat dons your head. If only we could all celebrate being ourselves – instead of trying to be someone else!

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