We live in a society that prides itself on who has the biggest house, the nicest cars, the nicest things. And, in my generation, it’s a competition to see who gets there the fastest.
The all-seeing eyes of our peers via social media gets us a little nervous about our belongings. On we go to paint a pretty picture of what our home looks like on Brag-book, anxious to see how many ‘likes’ and comments our picture of our new big house, or our brand new car, get.
Our cheeks get as flush as the day we walked out of the bathroom in middle school with toilet paper stuck to our shoe when we realize our significant other posted a photo of our kids with -GASP- laundry on the floor and toys strewn everywhere in the background. World War 3 is about to go down.
All of our anxieties are rooted in this: Comparison is the thief of joy.
Don’t Compare Your Middle to Someone Else’s End
Have you ever stopped scrolling Facebook or Instagram, only to realize you feel pretty bad about yourself afterward?
Many thoughts run through our heads while we rapidly scroll. Many times, we don’t even stop to realize those thoughts or deal with them.
“She’s so pretty. I wish I could look like that.”
“She just had a baby and she’s in a bikini! What’s my body’s problem?”
“WOW. Did you see the new house Josh and Jenny bought? It’s huge!”
“Another new car? Huh. What am I doing wrong that I can’t afford what they have?”
“Pregnant again? I can’t even get pregnant.”
Do you see how damaging that can be? All in the span of 10 minutes.
When we are flooded with the success or appearance of success of others, it can be draining if we are not in the same chapter of life. Listen to me very carefully – comparison is the thief of joy. When you constantly compare your life to someone else’s – when you compare your middle to someone else’s end – you will be robbed of the joy you could be having in your present life.
Think about that for a minute.
Your Path May Be Different, But It’s Leading You Somewhere
Everyone is at a different stage of life, and you are where you are for a reason.
It might feel like everyone you know is getting married, or has already started a family. Some of your friends might be posting photos of their extravagant vacations, their brand new Corvette, or half-million-dollar home. And you sit in your one-bedroom apartment with your child and no one to help you raise them. You feel like you’re working more hours than you see your child. You can barely pay your bills. And you can’t help but wonder what you’re doing wrong.
All that really matters is – are you working hard for your family? Are you loving your family deeply? Are you putting their needs in front of your own?
There are certain decisions we make in life that can make a significant difference in who we are and who we end up being. Some things we have control of, and others we do not. We can choose to save money instead of spending it. We can choose to remove toxic people from our lives. We can choose to avoid drugs and excessive alcohol. If we avoid toxic decisions and people and only lookout for the best for ourselves and our family, then we should be proud of the path we are on.
Your Story Might Be Different, But It Is Significant
The path that you are on might be your ‘middle’ in this story called life. That path is creating a powerful story for you to share and inspire others who are in a similar situation. Your story is waiting for you to embrace it like a prodigal son returning home. Take your story and look at where you have come. Look at the big and small things you have conquered and celebrate them.
You might not be a doctor living in NYC at the age of 30, but who you are is significant. Sharing our journeys is what inspires others who might be where you were 10 years ago. Being transparent about who we really are rather than hiding behind our social media profiles can make such an incredible impact on those around us.
Comparison Leads to Discontentment
His or Her Success is Not My Failure
I think it is also very important to mention that we must look at other people’s successes in a healthy manner. We need to separate ourselves from their success and recognize that or our success is NOT our failure. Recognize their achievements and be proud of them. They worked very hard to achieve success, and we should not let someone else’s success be the thief of joy.
I have had incidents with other women who express dismay in where they are compared to “where I am”. I put that in quotes because some perceive me to be Super Woman and super successful business Mogul. They don’t understand how I can be running multiple businesses and have 4 children. (There are also women who absolutely don’t want to be me for those reasons). But let me say – Us women tend to inflate other women in our minds and deflate ourselves. And the comparison steals our joy unnecessarily because we just don’t consider that everyone’s path is unique and we might not even see past the outer shell of someone’s life. It’s a vicious cycle where, no matter what stage of life we are in, we are comparing, and we are just never content.
This is going to be shocking for most of you, but I feel that it needs to be said.
When we compare, we tend to paint a perfect picture of someone. In reality, everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about.
Many people don’t know I struggled with severe depression and anxiety in 2009-2010 after graduating from college.
I was unemployed and unable to get a job and negative thoughts swirled in my mind every minute of every day. When you consistently beat yourself down day after day, you start to believe the lies in your head, that you’re not good enough. That you’re worthless, or your life isn’t worth living. And when you believe the lies in your head, you get to a very dark place that I don’t wish upon any of you.
Coming out of that dark place seemed impossible. But somehow, I fought the demons within myself. I decided to quit comparing my middle to someone else’s end. I decided to persist and persevere.
Stemming from my lowest low came to my story. I went from literally sobbing on my apartment room floor, ready to end it all because no one would hire me, to running a six-figure online craft business in the span of 2 years.
I went on to be at a pretty high point in life and even moved and purchased a very large and expensive home.
It lasted one year. Though we partially bought the home for the extra space needed for our office, we also bought it because we lapsed into a slightly excessive lifestyle.
Simplifying and Downsizing
We quickly realized we made a poor decision (or was it the series of bad omens that kept happening after we moved in…?). It just wasn’t us. We prefer a simple life and didn’t feel comfortable having anything that made it obvious we had a certain amount of money. We are down-to-earth, friendly people and lived in a neighborhood where no one would even speak to us.
We regretted moving in the first place. It hurt, bad, and still stings a bit.
We moved back to our old neighborhood, a place where everyone was extremely friendly and didn’t see people’s worth based on the size of their home and what belongings they have.
We are now in a home that is 1,500 square feet smaller than our last home. And we are so much happier. I don’t buy “nice” things anymore and prefer to shop on clearance, rummages, or thrift stores. It’s not necessarily for financial reasons – it’s so we constantly remind ourselves that we don’t need most of the things we want. It’s a reminder to put others before ourselves – that there are so many people who can’t even put food on the table or buy clothes for their kids. It’s a reminder to live in Christ and die ourselves.
So when others compare themselves to me, I hope they see they want to be selfless, kind, generous, and thankful. I don’t want them to see riches and expensive things.
Use your lows to catapult yourself into where you want to be. Dream as big as you can and do it. You only live once, so make sure you are living a life you love. If you don’t love it, you can do everything in your power to change it. And one of the first steps is to quit comparing yourself to others. Live your own life and live it loud. You are beautiful the way you are. You are exactly where you are meant to be.