The Danger of Comparison

imagesCAIX5BMGYour neighbor has washboard abs, and you covet them.  Your running partner ran the marathon 10 minutes faster than you last year, and your goal is to beat their time this year.  You wish you had thighs like (insert name) or arms like (insert name).  Why are these thoughts dangerous?

When we compare ourselves to others, we fight a losing game.  We never win when we attempt to gain the gifts that others were given.  We fail to recognize that God has blessed us with unique gifts and talents that serve a special purpose.  You may even miss out on your own personal strengths when you try to force something that doesn’t come naturally.

I used to think I was a freak of nature because I was born with abnormally large leg muscles.  Instead of appreciating my physique when I was a teenager, I wished for long, thin legs like many of my friends.  I dieted to the extreme, but only my upper body diminished, while my thighs remained the same shape.  People “accused” me of being a runner, a gymnast, a body-builder and a dancer — because no one could be born with legs like that.  Since I was being accused of all of the above activities, I tried them all.  That way when someone asked me, “Are you a runner?”  I could answer, “Yes” with confidence, and not have to explain my genetics.

But over time, I discovered that my sturdy legs were not a hindrance, but a blessing.  One of my turning points occurred in 1995 when Christopher Reeve (aka. Superman) was paralyzed in an equestrian accident.  He lost his ability to walk and run in a moment.  Yet despite his loss, he focused on what he still had — his mind, his spirit and his family.  How could I not appreciate my ability to run?  How could I be ungrateful for this incredible gift God gave me?  Now every time I run, I praise God for how he has blessed me with two strong legs that have propelled me through a marathon and many races since.

How can you quit the comparison game?

1.  Be grateful for your personal strengths.  Everyone of us has a gift or a talent.  Yours may be physical, like strong arms or focused balance.  Or your gifts may be character-based.  Maybe you’re great at encouraging others.  Or you persevere despite physical limitations. When you practice thanking God daily for the gifts you have been given, your mind transforms from bitter to pleasant.

2.  Focus on your abilities — and stop focusing on how others have it better.  Face it, there will always be someone stronger, richer, faster and more beautiful than you.  When you focus on your personal abilities and strengths, your goals become more realistic and achievable.  I know that I’ll never be tall like a super-model, but I could probably outrun Kate Moss and Christie Brinkley!

3.  Accept yourself NOW — unconditionally — warts and all.  Don’t wait until you’ve lost that 50 pounds — or until you’ve run the 5k in 15 minutes — accept yourself right now.  You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Once you learn to love who you are, you’re ready to become your personal best.

Comparison isn’t always dangerous.  Sometimes it’s the catalyst for competition.  When we use it to inspire ourselves to achieve more, it’s healthy.  Just don’t fall into the trap of becoming so jealous of others’ achievements and abilities, that you can’t appreciate your own.

2 comments

  1. I so desperately needed to read this today. I’ve lost over 100 lbs., teach fitness classes, have won two bench press competitions, and I have been MISERABLE because I can’t keep my eyes off of what everyone else is doing. I want to look like the women in the magazines. I want to compete, but my sagging skin makes it a difficult (nearly impossible) dream. I have a hard time being thankful for the gifts that God has given me–my health and the ability to ,make some extra money doing what I love. As I sit here repenting of my rotten attitude and jealous spirit, I’m printing this out and placing it in my fitness notebook. Thank you for an on-time word for me.

    1. Cassie — I so appreciate your sweet message. I lived with that self-loathing for years as well, until I realized that perfection is impossible. Even the women in the magazines who seem perfect are airbrushed. One step I’ve taken is to stop reading magazines that make me feel inferior — and tempt me to compare. You are beautiful and capable and strong right now (you won bench press competitions!). Another step that has helped is listing 10 things for which I’m thankful every day. Nothing is too small — I’ve even thanked Him for hot coffee! When you take the time to focus on daily blessings, your perspective slowly changes. Your appearance loses its importance. It’s a slow journey, I know. But over time you’ll experience healing. Thanks for your encouraging words!

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