I've lost count of how many years I've struggled with constantly comparing myself with other people. I'm not certain about this—I'd have to do a thorough comparison to be positive—but I'm pretty sure that I've contended with comparison more than any other woman in North America, perhaps the world.
Maybe I could be the winner of a comparison contest. Maybe this is the one way I could win at the comparison game.
Or maybe not.
For quite awhile now, I've known that constantly comparing myself with others is not a good idea. So I've spent a lot of time looking for wisdom about how to overcome the problem. I've found that well-meaning teachers sometimes addressed the topic, but their advice usually ran along these lines:
"You shouldn't compare yourself to others, for you never know the truth about anyone other than yourself."
"You can't compare yourself to anyone else, for you are one of a kind."
"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."
"You are God's creation, and God made you incomparable."
"People are like snowflakes; no two are exactly alike. So you can't compare yourself to anyone else!"
All this advise might be wise and true, I know. Sometimes it encouraged me; other times it just irritated me.
The worst part was that it didn't help.
I wanted to stop comparing myself to others, but I couldn't break free from admiring one person's achievements, someone else's personality, another's skills, yet another's relationships. And don't get me started on how I looked at other people's appearances.
Despite my best efforts, I couldn't heed the advice I heard. I was unable to live up to even one of those catchy slogans. I was haunted by the admirable attributes of other people, certain that I could never measure up. No matter how well-intentioned the teaching or pithy the advice, I found that most of didn't help me change my thoughts, feelings, or actions. I might listen to a speech or read an article and feel inspired, but in no time I'd slip right back into my old habit of constant comparison.
It was as if I was lost in a maze or stuck in a steel trap of comparison. The more I struggled to free myself, the tighter the jaws of the trap clenched.
That's the bad news.
The good news is that, by the grace of God and the help of a lot of His people, I've learned that there is a way to break free.
But it's not an easy way. There's no instant cure, at least not that I've found. No catchy slogan. No quick fix.
But there is a way, I believe, and I've written a book about it. Mythical Me: Finding Freedom from Constant Comparison.
It releases on Tuesday, October 22. You can read all about it here
But you know what? Of all the ways that I've been tempted to compare myself with others, perhaps none is so great as the temptation to compare myself with other writers. If you follow me on Instagram, you might have seen this photo of me with my friend Gem Fadling, who released a book from the same publisher (InterVarsity Press) just last month.
For instance, if I let myself, I can get completely wrapped up in the fact that Gem's book is a beautiful hardcover edition, while mine is a lowly paperback. And that's just the first of a thousand comparisons I could make.
Here's something I've learned: the temptation to compare will never be gone. But I don't have to fall into the trap. I can choose to embrace the opportunity for community rather than give into the isolation that comparison brings.
God, who is a relationship in His own being, designed His image-bearers for relationship. We were designed for relationship because we were designed by relationship.
I believe that no matter what we're doing—writing a book, practicing a profession, keeping a home, rearing our children, whatever—the cure for comparison is community. There is a way out of the comparison trap—and it leads into the loving heart of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Do you ever find yourself stuck in the trap of comparison? I'd love to hear about it!