Comparisonitis: Easiest, quickest way to make yourself miserable

Comparisonitis is among the most common self-sabotaging habits singles indulge in, yet most of the time we don't even realize we're doing it.

In their book The 10 Dumbest Mistakes Smart People Make and How to Avoid Them, Dr. Arthur Freeman and Rose DeWolf define comparisonitis as:

…a condition that exists when you make comparisons that are unreasonable, when you make too many comparisons, or when you make them too often.

We can't help comparing. It's in our DNA and it's constantly encouraged by the world around us. Sometimes it can be a good thing. Too often, however, it makes us feel inferior and depressed.

One of my goals for this site is to help you avoid as much destructive thinking as possible. With that in mind, let's look at healthy vs. unhealthy comparisons.

Comparisons forced upon us

When we're still babies, our parents compare us to our older siblings or to their friends' children. Did we walk and talk sooner? Were we potty-trained when they thought we should be? Did we behave as well as other toddlers?

The comparisons continue when we get in school. As we socialize with other kids our age, we unconsciously notice who is taller, bolder, and getting more attention from the teacher. When papers and tests are graded, we want to know what grades fellow students received.

In junior high, as hormones kick in, girls wonder how they stand up to the other beauties in their class. Boys worry about appearance, strength, and sports skills.

This constant measuring is good when it motivates us to improve our grades, sharpen our people skills or mind the manners our parents taught us.

Comparison leads to competition, and society likes that. It makes people work harder on the job. From sports to politics to lawn care, competition can bring progress and improve things.

Automatic comparisonitis

Comparisonitis is so ingrained, we immediately engage it as soon as we meet a new person. Is (he, she) better looking than me? Do they seem as smart as me or smarter? How do my clothes stack up against theirs? Are they a threat to me?

All this happens so fast and so automatically we hardly realize we're doing it. Making these snap judgments may be a defensive maneuver going back to ancient times, when people sized up strangers to learn whether they were friend or foe

I'm not a psychologist, but it seems we all have a need to know where we stand in the pecking order. Especially in the workplace, we like to know who has authority over us and who we can boss around.

But is comparisonitis valid for Christians? Listen to what Jesus said about judging others:

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (Matthew 7:1-3, ESV)

While comparisonitis doesn't always involve judging, it can distract us from working on our own spiritual maturity.

Freeman and DeWolf note, "One of the most common results of comparisonitis is giving up."

We encounter someone who seems so far ahead of us that we believe we can never attain their level. We become discouraged at our shortcomings. Improving seems an overwhelming goal. In frustration, we quit.

The benefits of being unique

When you think about the people you most admire, what do they have in common? Ha! They're all unique. That's about the only thing they have in common.

I was influenced by my father's honesty and kindness. I have been influenced by favorite teachers, pastors, bosses, and friends.

Like you, the strongest influence on my life is Jesus Christ. If I compared myself to him, I would feel sad. Instead, I ask the Holy Spirit to work through me so less of me and more of Jesus shows through.

Think about the fruit of the spirit in the Christian's life:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23, ESV)

Isn't that what we all want in our life? Comparisonitis doesn't get us there, but surrender to the will of God does.

You and I can never be perfect like Jesus, but with the Holy Spirit's help, we can be better than we were five or ten years ago. We can make progress. In the Spirit-led process of sanctification, we can ask God to mold our lives into his plan of holiness.

Realistic goals and expectations

The cure for comparisonitis is competing with yourself. While it's fine to draw inspiration from a person you admire, the real goal is to develop our own unique abilities, not copy others.

All of us have God-given talents. You can tell it's a gift when you not only enjoy doing it, but you're also good at it. It feels natural. It gives you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Read about that subject. Research it. Find experts on it and ask them questions. As you learn more, you'll find ways that you can grow.

The ultimate use of your talents, however, is in service to God. Unbelievers don't get that. Making lots of money is their goal. Jesus told us we can't serve both God and money. We need to let God be master of our lives.

Advancing as a person is exciting. The more enthusiastic you become about your own gift, the less time you'll spend comparing yourself to others.

We all have setbacks, and those are to be expected. What matters is that you move away from jealousy and work on the "log" that is in your own eye. In other words, get on the right path yourself before worrying about the other guy.

Fellow singleton, it took me a long, long time to learn this, but as a result, I feel much better about myself. I don't have to buy what other people buy, I don't have to dress like other people dress, and I don't have to drive what other people drive. I can be myself.

God calls you and me to be authentic because he created every human being to be unique. Stop comparing and start building on your own gifts. God is sure to help you with that.

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