How to Overcome Comparison: An Open Letter From a Recovering Perfectionist

I saw a really cute picture of another blogger’s kitchen the other day and it made me feel icky because my cabinets are so not pottery barn.

I overthink what others think of me and I’m always looking over my shoulder, worried I won’t work fast enough or be inspiring enough and lose my place in this race.

I edit most of my social media captions multiple times after posting them and I usually don’t get anything right the first time.

Hi, my name is Jordan and I’m a recovering perfectionist.

I say “recovering” because for a long time I used to care so much about looking put together because that was “in.”

Then, everyone attacked social media for being a pit of comparison so everything swung the opposite direction.

So for awhile, I caught myself trying to prove that I was real and messy because that was in. And I felt the need to prove that my life wasn’t perfect (um, whose is?). I felt the need to prove that I was “real and relatable and just like everyone else,” instead of just being real and how God made me unlike anyone else.

I failed to see that I am just as real when I’m having a good hair day as I am when I’m a total mess. I didn’t realize that I am both real and messy but also real and full of joy, life, and light.

It’s not that I don’t struggle like anyone else. I do. And I’m not afraid to share that reality (I mean, obviously, considering how I started this article off).

But for a long time I believed that people wouldn’t like me if I shared the good things in my life.

So, even when I showed the good things, I was SURE to highlight the imperfect parts of them instead of celebrating the real wonderful parts of them, too. I knew how ugly jealousy and comparison could be and I feared being someone people compared themselves to—so I set out to prove that I was “normal.” Whatever that means. 

I tried to hide all the good stuff and focus on the ‘relatable’ stuff because I was terrified that somebody else might step into the comparison game, point a finger as if I’m in the wrong, and say, “that’s not real.”

I know people do it because I’ve done it to other people.

But I’ve been challenged. Who are we to say someone’s joy or beauty or life isn’t real and legitimate? Isn’t that just our inadequacy talking?

The fact of the matter is that I was still being a perfectionist about what I shared and did. I filtered only what I thought people wanted to see—it just looked different from what perfectionism is typically understood to look like. It took the cloak of being “real” but maybe it was hardly real at all.

It’s as if, in some twisted way, I was being perfect about being imperfect and fake about being real. What on earth is that?

But if you think about it, I’d bet you have been, too.

Perfectionism and pride aren’t just reserved for the retouched photos. They take root in the heart and can mask themselves in all sorts of ways.

It’s an uphill battle and I’ll never tell you that I don’t struggle with it (hence, *recovering*). Because I struggled today. Struggling right now.

Maybe you are, too.

So I think it’s something we ought to talk about because we live in a world so saturated with comparison and competition yet equally saturated with lots of internet whining and cheesy posts that are supposed to be inspirational but not enough LIVING.

And it leaves me wondering, “How did we get here? How has it become that one of the modern American girl’s main griefs has become comparison when people all over the world are hungry every day? How have we come to believe that someone is only REAL if they broadcast the ugly and broken parts of their life on their Instagram? Is there not more to life? Is there not more to the story?”

Perhaps there is more to the story. So much more.

This may not be the fluffiest, feel-good post in the world but I’m not interested in dancing around it any longer because it needs to be said.

So, from one recovering perfectionist (and also compulsive comparer) to another: My life is not a competition—neither the messy parts nor the marvelous parts are a measurement of my worth. It’s all part of my story and I don’t have anything to prove with either part of it. I’m not interested in one upping anyone or looking like anyone else or proving anything any longer. Instead, I choose to live and be and move and breathe.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m no robot. Like I said, I let myself fall into comparison, too. And I’m shamelessly honest about that. BUT I’m done passing on the blame or whining about it. Because that just makes it about myself and not about God. And I truly believe that we need to stop complaining so much and start marching on in doing what matters.

Because we are NOT victims of comparison. And we are not any more or less real because of what we may or may not share on the internet, achieve at work, or put on our resume.

Comparison may sneak up on us but we choose whether or not we give it power.

You have a choice in the matter, too, okay?

All too often, we lock up our hearts and drain them of all their joy all on our own simply because we choose to obsess over something that should be a non issue.

There’s a quote that says, “Mother Teresa didn’t walk around complaining about her thighs—she had work to do!”

The fact of the matter is that there is a way out. You literally have the key in your hand.

I’ll give you a hint: The key is NOT whining on social media or posting more inspirational quotes or more mega honest captions to convince yourself or others of something. I’ve tried that. It doesn’t work because when you’re still trying to prove something, that’s not freedom. The key is not whether or not you choose to wear makeup and it’s certainly not just blaming the enemy.

The key is choosing something better. Because there’s power in CHOOSING to live my life instead of choosing to look at everyone else’s. There’s power in choosing to declare what I know out loud instead of letting what I FEEL scream on the inside.

Maybe the answer isn’t convincing yourself or anyone else of anything but choosing to cheer people on instead. Nothing breaks comparison faster.

I don’t think any of us lose when we help each other win. I don’t lose beauty points when she looks better than me and I don’t lose any ounce of the worth bottled up inside of me when someone else wins what I hoped to have.

And neither do you.

So, here’s what I’ve recently had to learn as a millennial woman standing int he middle of our weird, social media saturated world: You’ve gotta check your heart. Trying to prove that you’re real and relatable on the internet can be just as messed up as trying to prove that you’ve got it all together.

Why? Because that’s what sells now. It does. Plain and simple. It’s the kind of thing that gets the most likes and comments like, “Oh my gosh! You’re just SOO real! Needed this, girl!” in the virtual world.

I mean, it makes sense—none of us want to feel like we’re alone in our imperfections or struggles. And those kind of things make us feel less alone, I get it.

And that’s okay but to be honest, your comfort or confidence should not increase because another girl shares her brokenness.

So many women on the internet try to prove that they’re real because they know others will like it—not because it’s just who they are. I know because I’ve done it, too. #guilty #thestruggleisreal

It’s like it somehow makes us believe that by sharing these things we won’t struggle with comparison anymore…so how is it that comparison is like, the hottest topic on the internet? How is comparison at an all time high? Isn’t all the internet transparency and real talk supposed to be cutting that like a knife? I sure thought so. Until I realized it doesn’t totally work like that. Until I realized someone else may post something even MORE real or be even MORE relatable and suddenly we feel like we didn’t try hard enough.

But how can you try to be real? It shouldn’t be something anyone has to prove. Maybe we should just be real, through and through. Otherwise, we all fall into the trap of being perfect about being imperfect and fake about being real.

ICK! How did that get so twisted?

Like I said, it’s not bad to share glimpses into real life or to be dead honest about some of our struggles on the internet (I mean, hello, I do it, too).

BUT no matter how hard we try to make it real, the internet is not real life. It’s not going to be that real. It just isn’t.

So, we can’t live there. We can’t keep trying to prove ourselves there. Don’t do it for the gram. Do it for God, okay?

When you let yourself live, when you let yourself be real and totally you through and through, it’ll be clear to those around you if you’re genuine or not.

Take the pressure off of yourself to be so real on the internet and actually live real life. Live for Jesus. Love His people. Your real heart will show through. Because even those *real* photos can only be so real. They aren’t half as real as sitting across the table from a tear stained, unstaged, and unfiltered face that just really needs a hug.

There’s so much more life in taking the focus off of ourself and how we measure up and channeling that energy into serving God.

I have a quote that says, “throw your hair up in a messy bun and go do some Kingdom work.”

Notice how this doesn’t say, “throw your hair up in a messy bun and then try to prove how comfortable with your hair undone.” That still makes it about you and proving something.

It says to go do some Kingdom work. In other words, “throw it up in a bun, stop focusing so much on how done or undone it is, and channel that energy into doing what really matters.

That’s how you beat comparison. That’s how you live a full, real, abundant life—by living in your purpose and being mission minded.

Because yes, real is a bare face revealing an uneven skin tone and a little bit of yesterday’s make up left over. It’s crusty lips and hat hair and wrinkly tees and a little of cellulite. Real is tired eyes and messy tables and a series of imperfect moments. I mean, we’ve all been there. But if we’re not parading around showing it off in real life, why would we show it off online?

It’s one thing to let it be what it is and focus on what matters and another thing to highlight it and focus on it. When we seek affirmation for our mess, we misplace the affirmation we already have in the Messiah.

We’ve made real out to mean just the bare face and only the hard and ugly stuff because deep down, we have a hard time accepting others’ joy and happiness and beauty. We let others’ joy and beauty make us feel less happy or beautiful. But we don’t have to let it. It doesn’t impose itself on us, we welcome it in far too often.

We’ve become a world that tries to compare both our broken and our beauty and then complain as if comparison attacked us or something. But real is ALSO laughter and love and sunshine and beautiful things, too.

What if we just celebrated the moments as they are–instead of making them look super put together or proving that they’re totally not put together?

We don’t need to shame our sister’s beauty but we also don’t need to shame ourselves when we don’t feel so beautiful.

You’re not a victim of perfectionism or comparison and you don’t have anything to prove.

Because REAL isn’t just a make up-less photo and inspiring caption. Real is genuine conversation, a listening ear, an honest heart, and a cheerful song. Real is spending time with people. Then, focusing on them. Not spending time looking at people on the internet. Real runs deeper than any image you will ever see on the internet.

REAL lives IN you, not on you, because real is GOD. Real in it’s rarest form is beautiful and darling, so are you.

So, here are three practical steps you can take to put this to rest TODAY:

1. Get off the internet and be real by living real life–call someone or hug someone.

2. Send the person you compare yourself to most an encouraging message or admit to them you compare yourself to them and have a discussion about it (my friends and I have done this at times and it’s SO freeing!)

3. Identify if you are channeling your own negative energy toward someone else simply because they seem better off than you. Then, make a choice. CHOOSE to turn to the Lord and refocus on what matters most. Call that out for what it is and rechannel that energy into something life giving…do something to help someone in need, call your mom, or say the prayer below.

“Father God, I feel the pressure to prove something right now. I feel like I don’t measure up to everyone else.  I feel the nasty feelings of comparison creeping up. But I KNOW that Jesus already proved all that there is to prove on the cross. I KNOW you made me unique and real and full of life—just as I am. I KNOW that the very breath in my lungs is a sign of you living in me. When I compare myself to others, I’m making other’s the standard to live up to when in reality, I know you are the only standard. I invite you to take your rightful place on the throne of my heart. I trust that you are real and good and faithful. I trust that you work out all things for the good of those who love You. So, today, I choose You. I choose Truth over feelings and real over pretending to be real. I choose to live the life you’ve designed for me instead of longing for the life you designed for someone else. Fill me with Your Spirit and help me march on in what really matters. Amen.”

VERSES TO MEMORIZE:

Galatians 6:4-5 “Each one of you must examine your own actions. Then you can be proud of your own accomplishments without comparing yourself to others.”

1 Timothy 6:6 “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

2 Corinthians 10:17 “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

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