Do you ever wish our minds worked like an Etch A Sketch? That we could just shake our heads and empty out any thoughts or memories that we’d like to erase. Those negative thoughts that play on a loop in our heads would be gone for good. Whether the words were said to us or we formed the thoughts ourselves, they pick away at our confidence, causing us to compare ourselves to others. When we don’t measure up, the comparison game leaves us in a state of “not enoughness.” Not thin enough, not educated enough, not attractive enough, not wealthy enough, our house is not big enough, our clothes aren’t fashionable enough. We’ll never accomplish that goal because we’re not disciplined enough or talented enough. And yep, we even do it in church: I’m not as good of a Christian as she is or I’ll never be blessed like they are.
Now more than ever, it’s difficult to hit pause on that loop because of the endless feed on social media. Constant reminders of what we don’t have or who we are not are, literally, in our faces all day long. That makes it easy for those thoughts to settle in and take up residence. We may be able to forget them for a while, but, when we encounter that thing, whatever it is we feel like we’re lacking, and it connects to that vulnerable part of us, the regret, envy, shame and grief make it difficult to see anything but the deficit. Like tenants who haven’t been paying the rent, these thoughts are taking up space and not contributing anything positive, but we’ve continued to let them stay. It’s time to give them an eviction notice. But, shaking our heads like an Etch A Sketch isn’t going to make it happen. Our minds will continue down the same path, thinking the same thoughts, until we intentionally make a turn.
Just like any other bad habit, when we resolve to quit it, we need to replace it, or our minds will be tempted to continue down that familiar road. We have to discipline our eyes and our minds to focus on and be thankful for what we do have, who we are, but most importantly whose we are. Careful, though, not to comfort ourselves with thoughts of, “Well, at least my car is nicer than there’s.” Or, “I’m thankful my children aren’t living like hers.” The comparison game is always a lose/lose situation. As long as we are measuring ourselves with the ruler of others, we will never know our true worth. We will never get to experience the unique life and purpose God has for us. It takes effort; it takes going against the norms of the world and renewing our minds on a daily basis. Paul had great advice to the church at Philippi: “ Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Phil 4:8-9. Notice that he said, "put it into practice." He didn't say, "Do this once and like magic, your problem is solved." It's a change in our thought processes that will take time. Part of the process may involve eliminating or least limiting exposure to those things that we know trigger these feelings. I have to limit my intake of magazines and HGTV at times because I can find myself deep in house envy. A break from, or limited access to, social media can give us a breather from everyone else's highlight reels. will give you brAnd, if you feel like you need a mental health professional to help you deal with feelings of shame, unworthiness or depression, don't let anyone shame you into not seeking that help. If we can identify our triggers and be prepared Below are some additional verses and quotes that may be helpful to remember when we begin to slip into the comparison game:
“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Phil 4:12-13
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Teddy Roosevelt
“Delight yourselves in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:2
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Eleanor Roosevelt
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3
Carla Edmisten lives in Ladysmith, VA with her family. She is a social worker, writer and speaker. Invite Carla to speak at your event, get more information here.