July Change Challenge: Comparison Trap

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Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s July 2017 issue. Never miss an issue, check out SFM’s digital editions, here

article by Jamie Beeson

I sat on her bed as she curled her hair in her bathroom around the corner. Her hair looks way better than mine.  Mine’s already flat.  She walked out in her super-cute outfit. As I encouraged her in her beauty, I wondered how she might look standing next to me in our photo shoot.  Her legs are so thin! I will look double her size with my quadzilla thighs!  I thought I looked pretty good and felt ready for mass amounts of photos, but she made me question whether I was right. I should’ve waited to do my hair. I should’ve been more focused in my eating last week. I should ask her about her skin cream.

I’d like to say that I was 16 in the above scenario. I’d like to say that I NEVER compare myself to other girls because I am a grown, mature adult, confident in who I am. That’s what I’d LIKE to say, but that’d be lying. That was about two months ago…with one of my best friends.

The temptation to compare and size ourselves up doesn’t stay behind the school walls once we’ve graduated high school.  Wouldn’t that be awesome? Trade in all insecurity when you receive your diploma? The funny thing is, it doesn’t even go away when you are 38 or 45 or 50, for that matter. It’s almost like it’s in our coding and we’re just functioning in normal mode of operation. While it’s true that it’s all together too common place, I don’t believe it has to be true that it’s our M.O.

We arrived at the parking garage where we were to meet the photographer. We got out and set up for the first round of photos. Shots were taken, we laughed, and honestly, the more I was with my friend, being silly and thinking about the exciting things coming for us, I forgot all about how I looked. The photographer brought her camera to us to take a peek.  The photos looked great! My thighs were bigger than hers, but she captured us, and our excitement of the moment, so well. My friend says, “Let me see that. Oh, I don’t like that. I don’t like my smile or something.  Maybe my lipstick is too bright.  Your hair looks good.  Mine looks overdone, too perfect.” While hours earlier, I was thinking she was looking much better, we were now looking at the proofs and she didn’t like how she looked in the pictures.

Here’s the thing about comparison. It’s a math game that is all together illogical. And if we’re getting down to the bottom of it, ‘illogical’ is the opposite of ‘math.’ See, we take a look at a snapshot moment…her new kitchen cabinets, his nice car, their pretty green lawn, their family vacation, her thighs; and we frame that snapshot as a representation of their life. Then we hang our “snapshot” next to theirs and we add up all of the negative numbers (and sometimes the positive numbers) and put a greater than or less than sign in the middle. The problem with that is, while we are “adding up” our entire life: our insecurities, our best moments, and our worst moments, we are trying to put it into an equation to their “moment in time,” their “highlight reel,” their “perfect snapshot.”  We aren’t taking into consideration everything that was added into their equation before that moment. We have no idea what negatives or positives brought them to the place they are in. When I look at the nicer houses, I have no idea what their bank account looks like. Maybe having that payment is their largest source of stress, which is causing them to have marriage struggles. When we look through the windshield of that sparkling 2017 vehicle, we can’t look into the window of their soul and see the sadness and loss they feel because they’ve worked so many hours and feel like they’ve missed out on their life.

Comparison may allow us to feel superior in the moment which is equally as ugly and equally as inaccurate. My kids are more behaved than hers. Well, maybe in that moment. Are you around hers all of the time?  Did you know her son has Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder? Just give it a few years…even the most “perfect parents” run into some snags when raising independent humans.

Comparison is not a greater than/less than game, it is a trap. The math does not add up.  It causes us to derive a value that is all together inaccurate and incomplete and then we walk away with a price tag that is overpriced or underpriced. What are WE paying, and what are we willing to pay when we entertain the thoughts of comparison?  We may be missing out on special moments because our mind is consumed by it.  We may be missing out on important opportunities because we’ve decided we’re inferior.  We may judge someone by their “book cover” and walk away from one of the most incredible people on the planet.  We could empty our “joy account” and rob ourselves years of our lives.  What we pay in order to play the comparison game is not worth it.  Knowing it’s a trap versus a game, knowing it’s a false perception of the reality of others, helps us catch ourselves in the moment and change the equation.  Instead of greater than/less than, we should see an equal sign.  The value of my friend to this world is equally as great as mine.  It’s different.  Her equation is different, what she adds to this world is different, but because she is here, with a heartbeat, she has something my life could be enhanced by.  Comparison, then, cannot determine value.  When it sneaks in, change the sign.

“Every time we compare ourselves with someone else, we can never measure up because we’re comparing our insides with their outsides.” Renee Swope

“The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare other’s highlight reels to our behind the scenes.” Steven Furtick

JULY’S CHANGE CHALLENGE:

Download the Comparison Trap Freebie and apply at least one principle to your life today.

about the author…Jamie, wife of her high school sweetheart and mom of 4 boys, has been in the fitness industry for 18 years. “Fuel the body, mobilize the soul” is her mission. Connect with Jamie on Facebook www.facebook.com/jamiebeeson1 or online at: bit.ly/JamieBeeson