This will perhaps be the most raw, vulnerable, and honest blog post I will ever write. Yet, from as far back as I can remember, I have had a love for words (both written and verbal). This love has propelled me to become a writer, speaker, and preacher, and through it all, the key lesson I have learned is this: people connect to realness. Therefore, I take every opportunity to pray and ask that God may anoint my words and that He may use me as His vessel to share from my own experience. I hope that the following blog post may thus serve as an encouragement to you and enable you to find hope and healing if you struggle with Chronic Comparison Syndrome.
Since childhood, I have lived in a world of constant comparison. Despite what many older siblings will tell you, being the youngest child in the family is not always easy. When you have a big brother or sister who went to a school, church, or community group before you, was well-liked, popular, and excelled, you will always have to fill those shoes. This is definitely what I experienced growing up. My older brother is amazing. He has a knack for science and technology, can figure out any math puzzle in a few seconds, and has an impeccable, though somewhat witty and sarcastic sense of humour. He did exceedingly well in his studies, and the worst part is, it came so easily for him. Of course, I do not resent my older brother. He has been an incredible support to me throughout the years and has also helped me to excel in many ways. However, I cannot help but feel a bit bitter towards how my school constantly measured me up to him. You see, my brother and I are two very different people. My brother is a left-brained genius. His idea of fun was to be part of the robotics and trivia team. He has lots of friends and can connect to pretty much anyone. I, on the other hand, am more right-brained. Since elementary school I have enjoyed being creative. I’m terrible at art and drawing, but I thoroughly enjoy acting and poetry. When I was 12 years old, I won an award for a pacifist poem I wrote on Remembrance Day, a few years later, I published my first article in a magazine, and now offers for freelance projects just stream in regardless of whether I am looking for them or not. I did alright in school. From childhood I had a passion for two subjects in particular: English and Religious Studies. I did well whenever I saw the practical value of what I was learning. I knew from age four that I wanted to be a pastor, and so any subject that would help me reach this goal was worthy of my full attention. On the other hand, any subject that I was sure I would never need as a minister was less important to me (even today, I can vouch for the fact that I have never once used algebra or trigonometry!). Additionally, I suffered from a slight, though somewhat obvious, learning disability that was not addressed until my last years of high school. Apart from being hyperactive (not in the ADHD sense of the word), I also experience a mild form of dyslexia. This is ironic because I have achieved so much as a writer, but to be honest, I didn’t know how to read in my head until I was around 20, and even today, whenever I write articles I have to write them while speaking the words out-loud. Yet, in all of this, I still give thanks because God has used my disability in order to help many others. In seminary, I was hired on as a writing tutor and instructor and because of my own struggles with academia, I was well equipped to encourage and support many students who found exams and essays challenging.
Although my struggles with being compared to my brother ended when I was 14 and attended a different high school than he did, I have continued to wrestle with comparing myself to others throughout the years.
When I was 18, I left home and attended a wonderful Christian university – Tyndale. Tyndale was the absolutely best fit for me at that stage in my life. I discovered new passions, was able to volunteer (and later get paid jobs) in areas that truly mattered to me, and had a large number of friends. In fact, without bragging, I was one of those “popular kids.” Almost everyone in the school knew who I was, and it got awkward at times because people would greet me in the cafeteria or hallway and I wouldn’t know their names. Yet, I somehow found myself dissatisfied with my life. Although I had been invited to plenty of events and activities and although I was never short of someone to have coffee or lunch with, that one bridal shower or one birthday party I was overlooked for sent me into a tail spin. It didn’t matter whether I only knew that person on a casual level or whether I only spoke to them once or twice – not being invited equalled not being well-liked. I can remember one day in particular when I was in my second year and hanging out in the student lounge. I came back upstairs where my roommate was anxiously writing a paper and I proclaimed “I feel lonely. I feel like no one likes me.” My roommate looked up, clearly confused. “How can that be?” She asked. “I just saw you in the lounge and every single person was talking to you. I wish I could be that popular.”
I wish I could say that this problem was remedied by the time I got into my mid-twenties and grew out of these childish notions, but today, at 25, I know I still have moments when I compare myself to others.
We live in a world full of tension. On the one hand, we are constantly being told that we are the best. That we matter. That we deserve whatever our heart desires. On the other hand, we are told through media and advertising that there is something wrong with us. There is a certain ideal that every man and woman needs to reach, and if they aren’t able to fit that mould, they are somehow faulty or worthless. Even social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter can fuel this insatiable thirst for wholeness. Mindlessly scrolling through your feed and noticing pictures of engagements, weddings, births, academic degrees, or vocational achievements can become a real battlefield for your mind and soul.
I know because I have struggled with these very thoughts throughout the years and it wasn’t until recently that I was praying and God showed me the real keys to happiness. If you struggle with Chronic (and Constant) Comparison Syndrome, you are not alone. There are many others like you who, whether or not they would admit it, wrestle with the same thing. Yet, the only way you can ever break free of this cycle is if you find your worth in Christ. It’s not easy, but below I’d like to highlight some of the ways God has taught me to have victory over this area of my life:
- Finding Our Worth
Almost all of us have experienced a moment when someone said something (whether intentionally or not) that impacted the way we view ourselves and the world around us. Maybe a teacher told you that you would never get into university. Maybe a parent asked you why you couldn’t be more like your older brother or sister. Maybe a pastor asked you why you have to be so rebellious and question everything. These statements can linger in our hearts for months or years after the fact and they can be the root cause of our unhappiness. Whenever things don’t work out, we can find ourselves asking: why can’t I just be like so-and-so.
Recently, I was going for a walk in the woods and reflecting on how much I compare myself to others. God spoke to me in an incredible way. Not only did He show me how I was looking for worth in the wrong places, but He also showed me how exhausting this futile exercise really was.
The truth is, if you are looking for wholeness and contentment in anything or anyone other than God, you will always be strongly disappointed. No one else in the world can fill this hole in your heart that so longs to be desired and loved.
Listen: you are fearfully and wonderfully made. God knew you before you were born and He loves you with an unquenchable fiery love. You are a unique and whole person. No one else in this world can take your place. You have something very valuable to offer. You may not think you are much – you may realize that there is someone out there stronger, more intelligent, or prettier than you – but God is calling you to something very specific that only you are capable of.
We need to guard our hearts and take captive every lie the Enemy tells us – nailing it to the Cross of Christ. Christ bore all of our sins and weaknesses, He took them on Himself and completely abolished the guilt that so prevalently influenced our lives. To not trust Him and surrender all these negative feelings we hold, is to disbelieve in the saving work that He has already accomplished for us.
- Prideful Insecurity
Finding my worth in Christ did not just occur overnight because of a one-off encounter in the woods. It is something I am still learning how to do and because God is a patient and loving Teacher, He hasn’t (and will never) give up on me (or you!).
One day, God showed me that the reason I am always sad about not getting invited to events or being overlooked for positions I think I deserve, is because of both my pride and my insecurities. At first glance, this seems rather contradictory. Pride and being insecure seem like polar opposites, but in reality, they are more interconnected and interwoven than we would have imagined.
My pride stems from the fact that I think I am entitled to certain things. For whatever reason, I feel entitled to have lots of friends, to have my passions recognized, and to be seen as a leader. Whenever this does not happen, I begin to feel insecure. I begin to think that others are more well-liked than I am and that I deserve what they have.
Listen: Jealously and bitterness are deadly poisonous potions. They wield incredible power and if left unchecked can destroy relationships. No one wants to hang out with someone who is constantly comparing themselves to others around them.
Have you ever met someone who looked like the complete package? I know a girl like this. She is smart, funny, and has a wonderful personality. She has many friends, is super extroverted, well-dressed, and Godly. Whenever I hang out with her, I have this sudden urge to compare myself and think about how I can be more like her.
If this has ever happened to you, you need to understand that you are probably making this man or woman your idol. Sure, they might have many great characteristics and be someone you can admire or seek out as a mentor. If so, that’s great. But they are still a person.
Christ commands us to become more like Him not more like this man or woman you so look up to! And if your friend is Godly and Christ-centered, they wouldn’t want you to become more like them, they would want you to find your own unique and God-given purpose (and they might be more than willing to help you make that happen). The only way we can ever become more Christlike is to spend time with Him in His Word and in prayer. That’s how relationships are formed – through constant contact and communication. Our relationship with Christ is no different. If we relegate Him to only Sunday mornings or Wednesday evenings, we won’t truly get to know Him. We need to be fed daily from His Word. If you were only allowed to eat one meal a day, would that satisfy your hunger? Probably not! It’s the same with God. He isn’t looking for five minutes here or ten minutes there – He’s looking for an on-going and constant hang out session throughout the day.
- Dump the False Humility
C.S. Lewis often wrote about true versus false humility. Christians are taught that we should not be prideful or think of ourselves more highly than we ought, but that we should be of a sober mind when we judge ourselves. Yet, sometimes I have found Chronic Comparison Syndrome to be nothing less than false humility.
Have you ever met someone who likes to wallow in self-pity? I knew someone like this. Growing up there was a woman at my church who liked to complain about EVERYTHING. It didn’t matter whether the issues were large or trivial, she felt a need to voice how unhappy she was about the sermon, the choir, or the colour of the church carpet. Nothing made her content. In fact, we used to nickname her “the complainer lady.” You can imagine that such a person is not fun to hang around. Would you like to become friends with a person like that? A person who is always self-centered and telling you what’s wrong with this world?
Well, Chronic Comparison Syndrome can work in much the same way. Even if we aren’t verbal about our thought process, others can pick up on it. Don’t use comparison as a way to feel bad about yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others out loud in hopes that someone will justify what you are saying with compliments (“oh, come on now. You’re really not that bad.” “Oh, but I read something you wrote. You’re a fantastic writer.”). And don’t get all bent out of shape if you are complaining about yourself and one of your friends turns around and agrees with you! This all stems back to the whole issue of pride versus insecurity.
We can all be guilty of comparing ourselves to others from time to time, but if you find that you are doing this constantly and that it is overwhelming your brain – you need to stop. Don’t give into the lies the Enemy is feeding you about being less important or valuable than anyone else. Find your worth and identity in Christ. Nothing else can satisfy you. Having a boyfriend, getting married, having a good job, getting a grant, getting published…. These can all be great things. BUT if you are looking for them to fill you up, they won’t last. They might be good temporary fixes, but they will leave you hungry for the next high. Seek out the Scriptures. Find out how God feels about you. Then relax in Him. He made you just the way you are for a reason. It is only in finding and accepting that reason that you will become fully content.