How to Avoid Comparison and Find Worth

Social media is here to stay and there is a positive element for connection to friends and others around the world, but it can also be a source of discontent when we start comparing ourselves to others. Seeing the highlight reels of other people’s lives can also stir up jealousy and insecurity about our career, finances, body, home life, décor, image, and the list goes on. You name it, we can find something online to compare ourselves to in every area of life. As single parents it can even be challenging to see posts of filet mignon and gourmet dinners as we open a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese for our kids.

As we talk about worth, we want to consider how comparison robs us of a true sense of value and identity. When it comes to worth, we get in our own way. We scroll past pictures of intact families, those with lots of money, people on beautiful beaches, or incredible vacations, and we start to tell ourselves a story about why we don’t have what they have. It’s so easy to focus on a sense of lack instead of focusing on what God has given us or where He has us right now.
How doe we avoid the trap of comparison on social media?

Single mom, Elizabeth, says “Of course, it’s easy to say “stop scrolling” if you feel those comparisons coming up” but that’s not always the solution. There can be other avenues for discontent too. Holiday cards that come in the mail, wedding invitations, birthday parties. These events can trigger feelings of loss and sadness or not measuring up in some way too. Instead of focusing on that, Elizabeth says she wants to celebrate what’s happening in other people’s lives and be happy for them and then choose to create her own memories with her family. “Sometimes we put so much pressure on ourselves to perform for our kids and create things when they are going to remember today so if I’m worried about what other people are doing to the point that it’s taking away from what me creating memories with my own child, then I’m missing out and my child is missing out”, she continues, “So, I focus on creating my own memories.”

This proactive approach is important. It’s not just stopping something, like quitting the comparison trap, it’s about replacing it with something different, like making the intentional choice to be fully present for your own life and with the people you love. Maybe you make a choice to take a break from social media for a season or to quarantine your phone for a day every week or at least for a few hours every day.

Having more time to just be together is crucial. Kimberley shares that during the pandemic, she didn’t want more stuff. What she wanted was time with her family. She wanted to visit her parents who she couldn’t see for over a year.  Investing in face to face time with our kids and each other are what truly matters.

Robert shares that studies show depression rates are “through the roof” because of social media and comparing ourselves and our lives to things we see on a screen. Kimberley shares she loves social media because it keeps her connected to people who are far away like her family in Canada. But it has blown up into something that be a source of negativity and constant comparisons. She has shared that she regularly goes through her Instagram feed and unfollows accounts that lead her into negative thinking or the comparison trap. It may not be productive to follow a fitness guru if you are working on accepting and loving how you look and feel right now. We can also follow accounts that feed us in healthy ways about true worth and value. And we can use our social media presence to encourage others. “It can be good”, Kim shares, and says, “but we have to get rid of the junk”.

Recently, Robert’s daughter asked him to change the password on her social media accounts so she could take a break without feeling tempted to continually look at it. She eventually went back to her accounts but for the time she chose not to, Robert noticed a difference in her ability to be present and really engaged with him.

Something that has been helpful for Elizabeth as she views social media is being curious about what is going on inside of her when she sees something that brings up a lot of emotions. She has started to use those feelings as an opportunity for identifying areas that need healing or as insight into her own story. She asks herself, “Why does that hurt to see that?” or “Why do I feel sad when I see that?”. She uses it as an opportunity to consider, “What’s happening inside of me that is making me jealous or feel like I am less than because I don’t have X, Y, or Z?”. She uses it as a prompt to explore what’s going on in her and to grow from it.

If we ignore those feelings, and just jump to feel better, we may miss a chance to pay attention to what we need and areas of growth. Elizabeth invites others to “Shamelessly explore that.” We may need to grieve a loss; we may need to ask God for help with a burden.  We need to “fall in love” with our own stories and embrace the life we are living instead of comparing it to others.  We can focus on where God is leading and be thankful for the story He has given us even when it’s complicated or different because in the differences, He also is working and has a plan.

It is easy to compare ourselves to others, but we can also find ourselves longing for what we used to have. We may have regrets and sadness about the losses we’ve experienced. We might remember when we first fell in love or first became a parent. We may feel a loss of purpose that can lead to feeling a lowered sense of worth. Different seasons bring different gifts. If we are longing for the old, we will miss the new. Robert recently felt those twinges of wanting some of the former things he had when he worked in the music industry. But he found himself leading a meeting for Solo Parent Society right afterward and realized how grateful he is to be where he is now. “There is a richness in embracing the brokenness that I didn’t know when I was hanging gold plaques or receiving a Grammy. There is so much more value in being an integrated person and actually connecting with other people. Embracing our story, the good the bad the ugly, all of it, is where real worth is found. When we compare, what we had, or to what we see on social media, we rob ourselves of what God is doing right now.”

And it’s not just the past, shares Elizabeth. She finds herself comparing her current life to what she imagines might be ahead in her future. It’s easy to compare yourself to your future self and the dreams you have in days ahead. “We can almost wish away where you are right now by trying to be some place you’re not. If you’re not focusing on the present, or the places where God has you, you’re missing out on the present moment, which means you’re missing out on growth and healing that God has you in today.” So, comparison can be both looking behind or looking ahead instead of being present and grateful where we are right now.

Kimberley recently has been dealing with some health challenges. It’s been easy for her to wish she could just get past this and leap forward toward a future without them. ‘It’s been a long journey of months of health issues she doesn’t want, “But I will say, in it, God and I have had some really precious moments like my little worship sessions just me and Jesus when everyone else has left the house.” She shares she doesn’t like to be unwell; she would like to know what’s going on, “I’ve been to nine doctors but there’s something about the journey…” Kim shares that her mom encourages her to keep “plodding forward” as someone who has had health challenges for thirty years. But she reminds Kim that there’s something God has for her in this journey. Kim knows she’s right and she wants that closeness to Him. She listened to Job on the daily audio bible with Brian Hardin and he asked, “Do we want God to just fix it, or do we just want God?” And that is a key question when we are facing hard things. Kim shares she just wants Him and to live out the life He has for her. Resting in that is a helpful posture when we find ourselves longing for a past or future ideal.

If we as adults are struggling with the comparison trap especially related to social media, then our kids are too and likely more! If we can be present and content and resting in God’s presence in the here and now, the more we are able to help our kids navigate and find peace too.
Comparison is the enemy of joy, and it can also challenge our sense of worth. Recognizing when feelings of insecurity, jealousy, or discontent arise can become opportunities for us to bring them to God and ask Him to help us see ourselves and our lives through His lens of Truth and not the world’s.

Gratitude helps too. Celebrate everything! Celebrate others. Celebrated what God is doing right now for you, in you, and in others. Be intentional about noticing the gifts God has for you right now, right where you are. Gratitude brings contentment and we can thrive in the here and now. We can learn and grow and love well when we choose to be present, as our authentic selves, without falling into the trap of wishing for something different. Let God inform your worth. Let His presence be your comfort in seasons of loss, transition, and uncertainty. Let Him have the final word on your value and the story He is writing, even now, in the details of your daily life.  

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