By Jennifer Bleakley
You are such a loser.
You sound so stupid.
Who do you think you are? You don’t belong here.
The words taunt and belittle, hitting their mark, leaving my heart battered and bruised. The words rapid fire against my mind, continuing their siege until I lower my head in defeat.
The words spoken, not from another, but from within, are evidence of a fierce internal battle.
A battle I have fought for many years—the battle of comparison.
Single or married, with children or without, stay home mom or working mom, size 2 or size 20, organic or processed, introvert or extrovert….so many comparisons. So much time wasted. So many wounded hearts.
Can you imagine the contentment—the freedom—we could experience if we let go of comparison?
How many times have we gotten that thing we’ve longed for, yet instead of feeling content, our eyes instantly wander, catching a glimpse of something else—a better thing….a more desirable thing. And suddenly, we are discontent—off searching for the next thing.
I truly believed my comparison battles would end when a wedding ring was placed on my finger…boy was I wrong. In fact, quite the opposite happened. Marriage seemed to open the proverbial Pandora’s Box on comparison: others were getting houses, nice cars, becoming pregnant, saving for their kid’s college…..who could keep up with all of that??
Oh we tried. Amassing thousands and thousands of dollars of debt in order to keep up, feeling pummeled in the process. Something had to give.
One night we went to dinner at the home of some new friends. Their house, while nothing fancy, was full of peace and joy. The meal, while simple and basic, was served with love and hospitality. And the conversation, oh how it washed over my heart like a precious healing balm.
Our hosts were clearly content with their lives. They lived simply, choosing to live within their means, to be grateful for what they had been given, and refusing to engage in the battle of comparison.
I was fascinated! Was this truly possible? Could I really disengage from this daily (sometimes hourly) battle? Could I experience freedom to be who God created me to be without longing to be someone else?
That night, I began a quest. If there was a way to win the battle that waged in my mind, I would find it.
Yet, I quickly discovered that when 90% of a battle takes place in your own thoughts, you have to get creative with the warfare. I couldn’t win this battle through external methods. I couldn’t avoid going places where I might run into people who I deemed “better” than me (or I would never leave the house!). I couldn’t take a pill, exercise more, or get a make-over.
No, an internal battle must be fought internally.
And so I started with prayer—asking God to help me become aware of my inner voice—specifically the condemning taunts of comparison. I began to notice “clue-words”—words like “should,” “not as,” and “I’ll never,” which indicated I was comparing myself to others. (And let’s just say, I used those words a lot!)
I then thought of my friend and how grateful she seemed to be for everything she had, and for what others had! Thinking gratefulness might just hold the key, I began substituting comparison thoughts with grateful thoughts. (This was really hard at first, but it became easier with practice).
For example, when I started to think, “She is so much more successful than I will ever be,” I would force myself to rephrase it (for me, in the form of a prayer): “Lord, thank you for blessing her with that opportunity. And thank you for the opportunities you have given me. Help me be content with what I have.”
It sounded phony at first, but I soon started to mean what I was saying.
It was working!
I accidentally discovered that gratefulness for another’s blessings allows us to see more of our own.
This is still a work in progress for me—a battle that I will fight for the rest of my life. But it is a battle I now win more days than I lose. And it is a battle, I pray, in which we all will experience victory.
For we were all created to be unique. We were created to look differently, act differently, parent differently, play differently.
Oh that we would stop comparing ourselves to each other, and instead pursue who we are meant to be!
Who are you?
What talents, gifts, attributes do you have that you can be grateful for today?
Write them down.
Say them out loud.
Thank God for them.
And today, claim a victory in the battle of comparison!
Jennifer Bleakley draws from her experience as a mother and former grief counselor to write stories of hope which families can enjoy together. Her first book—the true story of a horse who led people to see hope—will be released in May 2018 by Tyndale House Publishers. Jen is a contributing author for Treasuring Christ Curriculum, She Believes online Bible study, and blogs regularly at about glimpsing God’s magnificence in the midst of her mundane life. If she’s not typing away on her beat-up computer, she is most likely hanging with her family, training her needy Golden Retriever, kayaking down a river, or buried under a pile of laundry, dreaming of the beach!
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