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.
“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…