“Comparison is the thief of joy.” — Theodore Roosevelt
My descent into the abyss of discontentment and resentment began when I started using social media more for personal reasons than professional ones. Instead of reading thought-provoking, creative pieces on writing, marketing and public relations, I found myself staring into the glittering eyes of women on dates with their doting spouses or cheering on their children, who excelled both academically and athletically. Other times I’d enviously click through photos of real life friends—who lived far away—or Social Media friends—who I’d never met—as they had girls’ outings at trendy restaurants and coveted concerts and on exotic vacations.
Like many of my Internet friends, I’m married and have great kids. Unlike them, I lived my life alone, behind a keyboard or chauffeuring my boys from one location to the next. If I wasn’t writing or working, I was taking my kids to golf practice, cub scouts or karate. I was volunteering at their schools and even attending church from time to time. The husband and I even went on dates a few times a year.
I became painfully aware that my life looked nothing like those of my friends when Facebook introduced year end pictures. My year end story photos depressed and embarrassed me. There was no over-sharing that day. I under-shared. Ironically, the cartoon filled timeline, thank Bitstrips, was more indicative of my life than any post I’d ever written. Flat, one-dimensional, colorful, yet entertaining glimpses of the life I lived. Well, the life I didn’t live. Fully. Completely. Whole and undivided.
The green-eyed monster festered just beneath the surface as I moved from looking at photos to comparing the snapshots of my friend’s lives to the vastness of my own. Placing my life next to theirs was crippling. I wasn’t smart enough. I wasn’t successful enough. Those things, compounded with dissatisfaction in my personal life left me paralyzed. I knew where I was and where I wanted to go, but my GPS signal was lost. I was the spinning circle stuck on the Android phone—thinking but not doing anything because I was overwhelmed.
Nothing improved until I re-established a link to God. Knowing that I was fearfully and wonderfully made meant little without constant communion with God, especially when I felt like a failure at life. It was easier for me to be envious of others than to take stock of my life and actions to find out why I kept finding myself in the same, undesirable predicaments. Spinning.
Galatians 6:4 says, “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” If I plan and do, I should take pride in the work of my hands as they are guided by God and not be concerned about how I measure up against others.
As I flexed my prayer muscles, I began to see the fruit of my labor. I obtained better contracts and better opportunities for my clients. The fog that once settled over my mind, lifted and I started seeing myself the way God saw me—good. I grew content knowing that all things work together for the good of them who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
God changed me—first.
The people I followed online didn’t change because I grew jealous. My perception changed because I realized through prayer that it was unpleasing to God to measure myself against others. God created me—and you— fearfully and wonderfully (Psalms 139:14).
Can it be hard to celebrate others when everything you touch seems to crumble? Or when the people who say they love you hurt you? Yes. However, you can use that pain to bring you gain. Instead of allowing negative energy to stop you, use it to propel you to the places you want to go and to the people you want to be around.
Own your life and give better than yesterday’s best. You are your competition.