Millennials' Biggest Problem: Obsessive Comparison Disorder
... and three ways to cure it.
Obsessive Comparison Disorder is the smallpox of our generation. Nine out of 10 doctors agree Obsessive Comparison Disorder is the leading cause of devouring a whole box of Thin Mints while watching reality TV.
So what exactly is Obsessive Comparison Disorder, what are the side effects, and more importantly, is there a cure?
Obsessive Comparison Disorder
Obsessive Comparison Disorder is our compulsion to constantly compare ourselves with others, producing unwanted thoughts and feelings that drive us to depression, consumption, anxiety and all-around joyous discontent.
Now, obviously the lure and danger of comparison didn’t just start. Comparison started when sin did.
The first murder recorded in the Bible was a byproduct of comparison. Two brothers brought God an offering. God approved Abel’s and disapproved of Cain’s. So in Genesis 4 Cain invites his brother out to the field, and he attacks and kills him.
During Jesus’ last supper with his disciples, he tells them shocking news that will forever change history—one of them is going to betray him. How do the disciples respond? Do they do whatever it takes to find and stop the culprit? No, in Luke 22 they start an argument about which one of them is the greatest disciple.
Comparison has always been around. But now with the internet and social media it’s taken our comparison problem to global heights.
Just a few decades ago, you used to have to wait until your ten-year reunion to look each other up and down to see how much worse or better off you were than them. And all you had to do was fake it for one night.
Rent a BMW. Borrow a spouse and a few kids. Go on some insane weight-loss program you bought on an infomercial, along with that machine that shakes the fat out of you. Do whatever it takes. Just pull off some fabricated version of your life for one night to show everyone that your made-up life was obviously better than theirs.
Then you could leave your reunion and take that rented BMW straight to Little Caesar’s. Two Hot-N-Ready pizzas later, life could start going back to normal.
Now with the joyous invention of online social media, who needs a ten-year reunion? We now have the opportunity to compare ourselves to everyone. Every. Single. Day. What a blessing.
Every day we are trying to pull off a branded, dazzling, filtered, edited, impossibly epic and other worldly life that no one could possibly be living.
“My job doesn’t even feel like work!” “My kids couldn’t be cuter, they never misbehave and they are the only ones on their team to ever score a goal!” “My spouse and I constantly walk around cheek-snuggling like we’re doing in this photo!”
Yet, what effect is Obsessive Comparison Disorder having on us?
The Side Effects of Obsessive Comparison Disorder
Obsessive Comparison Disorder is the leading cause to buying things we shouldn’t. Obsessive Comparison Disorder makes us look through every picture of our friend’s “My Life is Awesome” Facebook album, depressed because our life looks nothing like “it’s supposed to.”
This new OCD devours creativity, energy, and peace—three vital characteristics you are going to need to live your life well.
Obsessive Comparison Disorder takes God’s designs for your life and warps them into a distorted, myopic view of all the things you don’t have, instead of all the the things you do.
And one of the most dangerous side effects that I’ve seen firsthand—Obsessive Comparison Disorder isolates us. I’ve received thousands of emails from all over the world and the most common phrase I see time and time again: “I feel so alone. I feel like I’m the only one struggling.”
Obsessive Comparison Disorder is blocking honest, authentic conversations. Vulnerability and authenticity do not go hand-in-hand with a highly crafted online image.
Comparison makes us obsessed with trying to secretly ghostwrite other people’s lives instead of writing our own.
Yet, we don’t connect with each other over our pretend perfection. We connect over our shared struggle.
What are some simple things we can do right now to help cure our Obsessive Comparison Disorder?
3 Simple Ways to Start Curing Obsessive Comparison Disorder
1. Cut back on social media and TV
“Wow, that hour spent on Facebook was an incredible use of my time! And I feel so much better about my life now.” – No One Ever
Want to know a sure-fire way to cut your Obsessive Comparison Disorder in half?
Cut your social media and TV time in half.
Social media and TV can take your Honda-sized comparison problem and turn it into a Hummer—guzzling energy for no good reason other than to try to look cool.
For me personally, that has meant taking a long break from Instagram. It also means no longer watching shows like House Hunters International to see a couple decide which $700,000 home in Italy best suits them. Sometimes we need to blind ourselves from what makes us anxious.
If you look at a horse that’s carrying a carriage out in public, the horse will usually have blinders on. Blinders keep them from being distracted or freaked out by the noise of the peripheral. Blinders force them to focus on what’s exactly in front of them, and nothing else. We all need a set of blinders. We need to be forward-focused. What set of blinders can you put on that will help you look straight ahead?
What if we took all the energy we waste comparing ourselves with those next to us, and just ran our own race?
2. Celebrate What You Do
Celebrate what you do. Don’t obsess about everything you don’t. We need to celebrate on the ship we’re sailing, instead of drowning as we attempt to swim to someone else’s.
3. Hone and Own Your signature sauce
The best way to celebrate what you do is to own and hone your signature sauce—that unique flavor you bring to the world that no one else can.
God is the Master Craftsman and He has created you with an unique blend of ingredients. The more you own and hone what you were created to do, the more you can celebrate what other people do well.
As Mother Teresa aptly put, “If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.”
When you focus on being thankful for and being a steward of the skills, values and strengths God has given you, then Obsessive Comparison Disorder won’t have the same hold on you. You can be happy for other people’s success instead of wishing it was yours.
You serve the world by serving it your signature sauce. If you just obsessively compare your success to everyone else’s, your signature sauce will become that black stuff on the bottom of the pan because you never actually used any of it.