“She has everything and looks so happy,” I thought to myself as I scrolled through Instagram at 3 a.m. My newborn daughter was up for yet another feeding, and instead of being present with her in the dark hours of the morning, I’d gotten sucked into the trap of comparison.
As I flipped past square after colorful square, I spiraled further and further down. Projects that friends were launching into the world seemed effortless and chic in comparison to my hard work and seemingly small results. I questioned my interests, drive and talents.
By the time my daughter finished up her bottle and was drowsily resting in my arms, I had picked apart everything from the way I decorate my home (too drab) to my interior life (not inspiring enough). I went to bed restless and dejected. But worst of all, I was questioning my core identity as a beloved daughter of God, buying into a lie straight from the mouth of the devil that I wasn’t enough.
Want more Radiant? Sign up for our weekly newsletter!
The temptation to compare is something that I’ve fought for years, and I’m confident that I’m not alone in that struggle. Whether it’s the women at the gym, at work, in your family or simply on a screen through social media, so many of us have at one point or another questioned our self-worth in comparison to those around us.
If you have ever caught yourself benchmarking your wardrobe, your shape, your crosses, your strengths, your family or (let’s be honest) your entire life to the women around you, here are a few things that have helped me fight and reject the culture of comparison in my life.
There is no room for comparison when it comes to the feminine genius
As women, God created every single one of us with a unique feminine genius. The feminine genius is a term coined by Pope St. John Paul II to describe the specific and unique strength of each woman. He recognized that God entrusts humanity to women in an incredibly unique way that honors their dignity as daughters of God.
But when it comes to the feminine genius in our practical, everyday life, each woman will live it out differently. This means there is no room for comparing our stories, our bodies, our successes, our failures or our joys to the women around us.
There is no one-size-fits-all way to be a woman. Catholic womanhood isn’t a box you have to stuff yourself into. We live out this feminine genius in our roles as daughters, mothers, sisters, co-workers, friends and neighbors.
Other women’s success does not mean our failure. You’re living a unique and unrepeatable life that will never look exactly like anyone else’s. Thank goodness for that! If it were a duplicate of the life of the women you’re comparing yourself to, the world would miss out on the beauty that your own unique feminine genius brings.
Practice gratitude for the gifts and talents God has blessed you with
The danger of comparison is that we get so wrapped up in looking at the lives, talents and gifts of others around us that we forget that God has blessed us, too. “We will never find our vocations by trying to figure out whether we are better or worse than others,” Henri Nouwen wisely wrote. “We are good enough to do what we are called to do. Be yourself.”
If you’re struggling with comparison regularly, take time to reflect on your own gifts, talents and passions. Maybe it’s organization, and that shines in everything from the way that you put together your schedule to your best projects at work. Perhaps you’re gifted at the art of conversation and can strike up a genuine interaction with anyone you encounter.
It’s not prideful to reflect on the unique gifts God blesses you with and spend time thanking him for the ways that he’s created you. If you find yourself struggling with comparison on a regular basis, cultivate a habit of gratitude in your daily prayer time. Not only does practicing this recognition of your own gifts give you abundant reasons to thank God, it also helps you grow in the art of recognizing the gifts of others as just that — gifts, not competition.
When all else fails, fake it ‘til you make it
A famous social psychological study conducted in the late 1980s found that if you stick a pen between your teeth in a way that forces you to smile, your mood starts to lift. The same study discovered if you stick that same pen in your mouth in a way that makes you frown, your mood starts to sour.
What does smiling have to do with comparing your life to the lives of the women around you? Well, if beating the temptation to comparison seems insurmountable, remember that there is a lot of weight to the old “fake it ‘til you make it” saying.
There are days when the temptation to compare myself to the women I see on social media and the women who surround me as friends is so strong that I resort to simply faking it. I show up in conversation and ask genuine questions to get to know about the successes and joys of the women that I’m mentally measuring myself up against. I post that comment congratulating them on their achievement even when I’m envious.
And you know what? Everytime that I show up in conversation striving for that spirit of celebration, I find that at the end of the interaction, I’m not just forcing a smile. Instead, the Lord has taken my meager efforts and transformed them through his grace into authentic celebrations and genuine smiles.
And he can work that transformation in your life too, if you let him.