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The Comparison Game

Social media: what a wonderful little pain in the butt. It can serve as a wonderful source of information, cause hysterical laughter, and even provide a way to connect with friends and family around the world. It can also be a huge time-waster, and too often it leaves me feeling discontent with my own life. Believe it or not, this blog post isn’t just about social media. Rather, it’s about the habit it promotes: comparison.

I’ve written before about the importance of encouraging others rather than comparing yourself to them. And wouldn’t ya know, when I wrote that, I was preaching more to myself than to anyone else. Sometimes it’s easy to encourage people. If I’m being brutally honest, I will admit that it’s easiest to encourage when I feel like I’m the one coming out on top. Sure, I can go pat the back of the person next to me at the gym when they’re struggling to make it through the workout. But when it comes to the girl sporting perfect hair at 5:00am while she’s knocking out all the exercises like a champ (meanwhile I’m rolling out of bed looking like a troll and shooting glares at the trainer who’s making me do the third set of mountain climbers in 2 minutes)…she is not so easy to compliment. I’d rather give her side glances while making up stories in my head about how she’s probably not a nice person. (Don’t pretend like you haven’t done that.)

This week I purposely posted a video of myself looking like an idiot. I was at a local gym called Adventure Fitness Nashville. (If you live in Nashville, definitely check them out - it’s such an awesome place!) The gym mimics obstacles found in the TV show American Ninja Warrior. I had a ton of fun trying out several of the stations, but I found myself hesitating to try the adult monkey bars. No clue if that’s what are actually called, but that’s the closest thing I can say to describe them. They are more like monkey bars on steroids: the bars start out at 3 feet apart, so it forces you to swing your body back and forth before launching yourself forward to grab the next bar. I decided to try them anyway, but as you might imagine, my short little self completely freaked out halfway through, and I fell on my butt. Thankfully, they safety proof the gym because of people like me, and I fell onto lots of padding without hurting myself one bit - my ego was the only thing feeling bruised.

Granted, when I went back and watched the video my friend took of me wiping out, I basically cried laughing; sometimes watching videos of people falling on their butts is just hilarious. My immediate thought was, “Well obviously I won’t ever post THAT video.” But the more I thought about it, the more I thought, “Why not? I tell people I’m all about honesty in my blog and Instagram posts, and I look foolish when I’m trying out new activities and exercises all the time. Am I supposed to only post my successes and make the world think that I’m just the best at everything I try?”

Turns out that’s not what I’m trying to accomplish - I get annoyed at people who always look perfect on social media. So I told my pride to suck it up and went ahead and posted it, wipeout and all. And you know what? I had more people comment, message, and tell me in person how much they appreciated that post more than most of my pictures and videos. I’d like to think that people appreciated it more than for the fact that I made them laugh. I think people appreciated it because it was relatable. One of my coworkers told me later that day, “I thought that video was awesome. It’s real; it’s just not true that people can try those things and look great all the time. Thanks for posting it.” Her words didn’t make the video any less embarrassing, but it did make me realize that maybe our world is starving for a little more honesty rather than more pictures of something to measure and compare ourselves to.

So how do you stop the constant comparison game? How do you stop secretly wishing for everyone around you to look just a little less great than you, or to not envy all the Instagram and Facebook posts about job promotions, relationship anniversaries, amazing vacations, and more? I’m not sure how to exactly answer that question, but I do know that a big part of it is becoming content with who you are before looking at what you don’t have. The more content and confident you are in your own life, the more you will be able to genuinely rejoice in the successes of others around you.

Now here comes the understatement of the century: that’s easier said than done. But seriously, it’s so important to understand that we aren’t meant to all look and act the same. We were created with different talents and personality traits. Can you imagine how boring and terrible our world would be if we all looked and acted the same? Now right now you may be thinking something like, “Yeah yeah, I get that, but seriously, how did that guy manage to get handed all the right cards in life, while I’m left broke, lonely, and unhappy with how I look?” And I hear ya - believe me, if I had mastered the art of being completely content with my own life rather than looking at someone else’s, I probably wouldn’t be writing on this subject in the first place. But I also have to remind myself, usually on a daily basis, that seeing someone from a distance or seeing their social media posts doesn’t mean I know them or what’s really going on in their lives. I’ve faced this truth in my own life especially in the past year. There was a several-month period where certain events turned my life completely upside down, and I had to struggle through situations I never imagined for myself, ever. Ironically during that same time, I had friends who I hadn’t seen in several months messaging me saying things like, “Your life looks so exciting, I’m so jealous!” I kept thinking, “if they only knew…” And then I thought about how I do the same exact thing to other people all the time. I assume superficial conversations and pictures tell the whole truth, but they don’t - not even close.

I think if we were all a little bit more honest about our insecurities and brokenness, we would be way more willing to build each other up rather than tear down. Social media can be wonderful, but if you start realizing that it’s leaving you feeling empty and jealous, maybe consider laying it aside for a period of time - maybe for an hour, a day, or even a few months. Instead of pouring your time into an electronic screen, look around to see where you can invest in a relationship face-to-face. It’s a lot harder to envy or judge a person after you get to know their heart and hear their own struggles. More often than not, it makes you come to the humbling realization that we all struggle with many of the issues. Our time is better spent helping each other through those struggles rather than creating scenarios in our heads about how much better or worse their life is in comparison to ours.