How often do we play the comparisons game? You know how it works: If only I was as clever/arty/thin/attractive/generous as them; I will be happier about myself when I…; If only I was less shy/fat/ugly…; I wish I was more like…; I can’t write/draw/sing/cook/ as well as they can.
All that can go through our minds within a few seconds of popping on to any social media platform. We are inundated with idealized lives and images.
Rather than allowing us to see who we are and what we can do, the comparisons game traps us behind a layer of who we are not and what we can’t do. This cripples us in two ways. First, it is exhausting and a waste of time and energy. Second, and more importantly, it stops us being and embracing who God made us to be.
For years I believed I was not a creative person, wasting much of my 20s and early 30s. I compared myself unfavorably with those I knew who were at the top of the creative tree. In so doing, I squashed a whole part of myself and diminished to a large extent who God had made me to be. I would choose to not involve myself with anything that might expose my lack of creativity, and I would cast aside and negate any positive comments from others about what they saw in me. I feared being seen as something I could not live up to.
There were two problems: One, I was looking in the wrong mirror and comparing myself to a completely misplaced image. I saw being creative as synonymous with artistic. I can’t draw, but that does not mean I am not creative, far from it.
Two, in labelling myself thus, all I could see was what others could do and what I could not. I minimized my own abilities and reduced my effectiveness. In effect I was saying to God: The way you made me is not enough.
I was calling God a liar.
Ouch. But God is so gracious, and over the past few years He has been telling me He didn’t leave anything out when He made me, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14), that I am His precious child (1 John 3:1). In learning to let go of my negative comparisons with other people, and embrace how I express my creativity, I am living more fully as the person He made. I am a creative person because I am made in the image of a Creator God, as are you! And creativity extends far beyond the artistic – a beautifully peaceful home and a high functioning spreadsheet both involve expressions of creativity.
I have two teenage daughters. Like many girls growing up in this age they face huge challenges. Anxiety, self-image, acceptance, exam pressure, the pitfalls of social media. When one of my girls comes to me despairing that she is not as pretty or clever as one of her friends, it breaks my heart. How much more so with our Heavenly Father, who made us in His image for a purpose He intended (Ephesians 2:10)?
The first step to quitting the comparisons game is acceptance of who we are and what we can do – our strengths, skills and personality traits. Of course, we are not perfect. This is not about sweeping under the carpet the mistakes we’ve made or ignoring what we are not good at. Acceptance is also about taking responsibility for the downsides of who we are. Not beating ourselves up about them, but seeing them for what they are, and asking God by His Holy Spirit to help us grow more like the person He sees when He looks at us. Acceptance involves humble surrender. Choosing to pay attention to when we get it wrong, and with God’s help, to learn and surrender to His loving instruction.
Acceptance is living rooted in the knowledge that we are loved and cherished by the Creator of the Universe, and He thinks we are beautiful. He does not compare us negatively with each other.
The second step is choosing to live in agreement with who God has made you to be. What does He say about who you are? What are His truths on which you can choose to live instead of the lies the world would tell you?
When you find yourself playing the comparisons game, choose instead to start with who you are. Who does God see you to be? What does He like about you? What are you good at? Each day we have a choice: to stay trapped in the negativity of who we are not or see who God has made us to be and live in agreement with that. We can say to ourselves: “This is who God has made me to be. This is who I am and this is what I can do. God, help me today to bring who I am to everyone I meet, with acceptance and grace.”