This is a post from the Amateur Hour series my friend Corinne and I created last year. You can find all 12 weeks of writing at http://www.AmateurHourBlog.com or download the entire project as a PDF here.
The other day I mindlessly scrolled my Instagram feed and fell victim to the most subtle evil of our generation.
Without a second thought, I was comparing the number of followers I had to the numbers of my friends. As if followers are an accurate measurement of someone’s worth and prestige.
I lost a fight with the ugly enemy of decent people everywhere.
There’s something deeply ingrained in my soul that needs to be a little better than everyone else. My mind searches for metrics to rank people against each other. And when I don’t measure up to whatever the metric-of-the-day happens to be, I feel less.
I’ve wasted hours in anxious contemplation over how I rank in friend groups and workplaces and social platforms.
As a Christian, I even stress about how I look to other Christians.
How holy, sinless, and devoted do I look? Am I higher and mightier than the next guy?
When I start to dream, successful folks make me feel like a failure before I even start. I am blinded to the years of hard-fought persistence that usually led to their success. I only see myself as too far behind them.
Suddenly I’ve failed before I’ve started.
In one moment Comparison tells you, “At least I’m a little better than most people.”
The next it says, “Look how happy, successful, powerful and rich those guys are. You’ll never be like them. You will probably be broke, depressed and unloved for your whole life. Just give up and eat some ice cream you big fat loser.”
(Maybe you don’t get the ice cream line thrown in. I do.)
Comparison kills your audacious childhood dreams. It murders laughter. Slaughters your ability to take risks. Abolishes the ability to love deeply. Suffocates your personality. It drowns out feelings of accomplishment and purpose.
Far away the echoes of distant dreams grip your heart at the most inconvenient times. Like strangely familiar ghosts haunting the new, safe, normal image you’ve created.
The image people seem to like.
But nobody really loves.
How can they? They don’t know you. They only know who you project yourself to be. You can’t love an image, you can only love people.
The good news: You can escape the clutch of comparison.
Freedom is possible. Here are some steps to take.
The trap of comparison is subtle. Half the battle is realizing when it strikes.
You have to see an enemy to fight it, right?
Write down what the voices of comparison tell you. Identify the common themes and situations that make you feel like less.
Then, when lies speak to you throughout the day, fight them with truth. Realize how stupid the comparison game is. You’re better than that. You don’t need to measure up to anybody. You are you, they are them.
Celebrate others (sans judgment).
Every time you see someone succeed you make a choice. You can wallow in self-pity and comparison, or you can celebrate and assume the best in them.
You’ll never harbor angst towards somebody if you’re genuinely happy for them. I don’t think it’s possible. Quit assuming they didn’t work for it, or you should have what they have, or they aren’t deserving of their circumstance.
Instead, celebrate them.
Be thankful for them.
Root for them to win more.
Practice confident humility.
Rock beats scissors. Paper beats rock. Humility beats Comparison.
How can you fall victim to comparison if you don’t care where you stand? Measurements don’t matter anymore when you quit worrying about the rankings. Humility renders comparison powerless.
Now, don’t misread this.
You don’t need to think less of yourself. You don’t suck.
Say it with me.
Thinking 👏 you 👏 suck 👏 is 👏 NOT 👏 humility.
Quite the opposite, actually.
True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. -C.S. Lewis
Practice confident humility, comparison won’t stand a chance.
Comparison strips every unique corner of your heart and covers it with the same boring stuff everybody else is wearing.
All the passions and desires you once held to so dearly? Gone. Smothered deep in the ground because people might not like them. They may not approve. Nobody else acts this way. Nobody else follows a dream like yours.
How could they? They aren’t you. They don’t do the things you were created to do because they weren’t created to do them.
“There is no one alive who is Youer than you.” Dr. Seuss reminds us.
Those dreams will never leave, they can only be buried.
They whisper your name early in the morning or late at night while you wish your mind would shut-up and sleep already. Voices of the Real You plead with your soul to release them from the veil of comparison and be exposed to the world.
Then again, to live honestly might mean rejection.
What if my honest self doesn’t measure up?
Will people still like me?
Who am I anyway?
Fear is paralyzing.
Freedom is possible.
If you don’t stop the comparison game, everything about You will die. You will live in a dark and lonely box, enslaved to the image you’ve created. Never feeling quite good enough.
You will forget who you really are in pursuit of an image the world will accept.
I know because I’ve been there. I know because I am tempted to go there every day. I know because I’ve been who I thought people wanted me to be and lost who I was.
I’ve been a fraud.
Freedom is worth the fight.