Writing this 31 day series has challenged me, and it’s been interesting to notice which topics keep resurfacing, no matter what I’m intending to write about that day.
Comparison, more than anything else, keeps cropping up.
I listened to an interview with Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, last week. He explained a fascinating study in which people surveyed said they’d rather earn less money if it meant they had more than their friends and neighbors.
Specifically, people opted for a $50,000 salary assuming their peers were earning $30-40K, instead of a $100,000 salary when their peers were earning $200,000.
Why is that?
Why do we care so much what other people have and do? Why do we measure our success by comparison?
I’m not sure, but I know we’re all susceptible to the comparison trap.
Comparison can be healthy when it pushes us to be better. Surrounding ourselves professionally with people smarter than us makes us smarter. Training with someone in better shape accelerates your progress.
Being completely oblivious to other people means missing out on opportunities to learn and grow, but I doubt many of us have that problem.
It’s more likely that we are hyper aware of everyone around us. We notice what people wear, eat and drive. We notice where they live and work. We pay attention to promotions and engagements, weddings and new babies.
Without even realizing it, we compare all of it to our own lives. The danger in comparing ourselves is that we’re only seeing one blurry angle of everyone else’s lives, while we see our own under a microscope.
What happens when we don’t have all the information? We make assumptions. We assume other people are happier, richer, more selfless and more accomplished than we are.
There’s only a few places this path can lead if we follow it too far: endless, empty striving, bitterness, envy, pride and jealousy.
Striving. Bitterness. Envy. Pride. Jealousy. They all have power to consume us.
It doesn’t end with material things, either. Devoting yourself to seek a job or a marriage or a baby because people who have these things seem happy and praised is just as destructive.
Everything I’ve written in this series is for my own benefit as well as yours. This is my place to speak truth against the lies I’m tempted to believe, and the lies comparison tells are among some of the most destructive.
You’re not good enough.
What you have to offer isn’t enough.
What you have isn’t enough.
You’ll be happy when _______.
These lies aren’t new, but there are more opportunities than ever to believe them. It’s not just TV and magazines that throw them in our faces anymore. It’s our friends and college classmates and vague acquaintances online, publishing the curated versions of their lives.
I believe the internet does more good than harm, and I use multiple social media networks daily. But I know it’s time for a break when someone’s status update changes the way I feel.
Comparing my life to the lives of the many I follow online makes no sense. I have different talents, goals, resources, and values than they do. There is no one, among my real life and online friends, who has the same purpose as I do.
I find genuine encouragement and healthy challenge from relationships, but there is nothing worth comparing. What if we linked arms instead and used our varying strengths and resources to do good?
Reading Romans 12 encouraged me in this today.
Can you relate?
This post is part of a 31 day series on doing less to build more. To read the other posts in this series, click here.
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