“My comparison phantom is obsessed with how I compare with others.”

Corey Porter

Confessions of A Comparison Addict – Part Two

At all costs, conceal inadequacy

My comparison phantom is obsessed with how I compare with others.

Its high expectations pressure me to be the best, someone that I can be proud of and my peers will admire. I judge how well I am able to fulfill my phantom’s ideals by how well respected I am among my peers. I feel intense pressure to prove and secure myself among the most talented and successful.

I crave the respect of my peers for my talents, work ethic and successes. Somehow I am prone to form my identity solely based on how I compare to others based on these criteria. It makes for a turbulent and fluctuating sense of identity. It seems that only when I get ultimate acclaim for being the best will my comparison phantom be satisfied.

I want to achieve my goals every time. I want my peers to see me as the best at what I do. My insecurities are further revealed as I catch myself worrying about the criticisms and judgements of my peers. I find myself thinking about how to please everyone, not wanting to give anyone reason to criticize me to my face or behind my back. In my pride I don’t want them to see my sins, weaknesses, mistakes or failures.

“I have heard it said, ‘Confession is good for the soul, but bad for the reputation.’ Sounds accurate to me.”

Corey Porter

Confession makes me physically ill

My comparison phantom has such a grip on me that my body literally cringes and feels weak when I am about to attempt a confession of any weaknesses. I have heard it said, “Confession is good for the soul, but bad for the reputation.” Sounds accurate to me.

Honestly, I am both frustrated and ashamed of my sins, weaknesses and limitations. I hate to face them, let anyone have anyone else see into the depths of my brokenness. I am highly concerned about keeping up a positive public image. It takes an enormous social energy to maintain. I am certain that those very peers I am trying to impress will judge and condemn me if I reveal my dark side. Yet when I hide my weak, dark, and sinful self, there is a part of me that remains unknown, unloved, and un-graced.

But there are times my conscience just can’t hide this part of me anymore and I have to express this true part of myself, bruised though it may be. In those moments my phantom is exposed and loses its power. This is the ironic secret. When I don’t consistently share my weaknesses to safe and loving people my comparison phantom rules unchallenged and the cycle of grit and despair spirals downward.

And so I am in a perpetual tug of war. My comparison phantom pressures me to only speak of my talent and successes and conceal any weakness. My conscience convicts me to speak with integrity about my weaknesses.

Photo by Gabriel Ting

Why I covet a public platform

As mentioned in the previous article, my comparison phantom spontaneously envies or criticizes my peers who are given stage time. I often think to myself, “I can do a better job. I should get noticed. I should be on stage.” But why do I function like this? What underlying beliefs consistently promise me satisfaction but instead cause so much grief?

Here are some false beliefs that I discovered feed my comparison addiction:

  • If I were given a platform for my talents and success, that affirmation would calm any insecurities about my worth within me.
  • I am more valuable than others if I have greater social skills, talent and success. Hero.
  • I am less valuable than others if I have lesser social skills, talent and success. Zero.
  • Public praise and recognition is ultimate, and getting the respect of my peers holds the promise of enduring satisfaction. It proves to myself and others I am worthy.

I desperately want to prove that I too can be successful, bear fruit, see big wins and do it all without breaking a sweat.

Ironically, when it was my time on stage, I felt compelled to share my weaknesses.

Photo by Benjamin Ng

This is what happened: Our local campus team put on a debate attended by 1400 students. I was asked to share about our success at a national gathering.

Once upon stage, I found myself attempting to speak with honesty. Rather than taking “a moment in the spotlight” I shared the other side of the story: God’s faithfulness despite the anxiety and worry that running the event caused me.

I shared my weaknesses. I shared how the event was bigger than me and that I was just trying to keep up with what God was doing. I emphasized the grace God gave our team to get through it. I didn’t want want to steal any credit and glory due to God. In that moment, my conscience understood that my longing for public approval would just leave me empty. In that moment, my comparison phantom lost its power over me!

That stage time was a defining moment for me.

I had previously thought that sharing my successes would bring me lasting respect from my peers. With the echoes of their applause still ringing I would rest in the satisfaction of their approval. Instead, I took a huge risk to expose my inadequacies and was surprised to discover my identity was at better rest in God’s grace and mercy. Getting their respect for my success was neither ultimate nor enduring. Their approval was merely temporal and contingent upon my success or failure.

A death blow to my phantom

They say vulnerability breeds vulnerability and it would seem God wanted more of it from me.

A year later, during an open time of sharing before our national staff, I shared candidly about my chronic depression and anxiety. I shared how these national gatherings were my worst time of the year. I shared how my inadequacies and dysfunction came to the forefront and made me more depressed and anxious than any other time of year.

To my shock I ended up receiving more words of respect, mercy and grace than all of my previous years of sharing successes. Many expressed that they identified with me and tears were flowing from the eyes of some of my peers. It was totally the opposite of what I had expected.

“They say vulnerability breeds vulnerability and it would seem God wanted more of it from me.”

Corey Porter

In the past I only viewed the platform as a means for sharing my successes and looking for validation, but more and more I view it through the lens of integrity. Therefore I also use it to share my vulnerability and weakness.

Counterintuitive? Yes. Scary? Yes. But the more honest I am about my sin, weaknesses, and limitations the more I am learning to rest in God’s mercy and grace alone. And the added bonus, I have experienced plenty of respect, grace and mercy from my peers as well. I had thought that I could only garner their respect by sharing my successes, but in reality peace and rest came through anchoring my identity in the forgiveness, acceptance and worth Jesus gives me. This security gave me the strength to share my weaknesses before my peers.

A community of vulnerability, resting in God’s grace

My vulnerability has given many of my peers freedom to share their inadequacies as well. The more I hear their confessions of sin, weakness, and limitation, the more my comparison phantom loses its power and, in a way, the chasm gap closes.

So when I hear my phantom speak words like, “Come on man: get it together!”, I am learning to talk back to it like this: “I don’t need to compare myself to anyone. I don’t need to strive to get affirmation, and my sense of worth isn’t measured by my social swagger, talents or success.

My enduring rest and validation is found exclusively in God’s mercy and grace shown to me in the death of Jesus Christ. He forgives, accepts and values me at my worst. I can’t ever earn this unconditional kind of secure identity. I can experience rest in the mercy and grace my friends extend to me as well. I can be real about my sins, weaknesses, and failures and give the glory to God for successes. I don’t need to prove I am the best to have my life together.”

Photo by Benjamin Ng

Small incremental change

Over time, some things have changed, some haven’t. What hasn’t changed? I still don’t have it together. What has changed? Even though my phantom continues to speak those poisonous words, “Come on man: get it together”, the power of those words is decreasing. I am learning to walk and speak the truth, and it is in those moments that I chose to live in the mercy and grace of Jesus and friends.

More and more, when I am tempted to hide my weaknesses, I acknowledge them to myself, God and others. I experience more and more undeserved grace.

When I crave applause for my contributions, the Holy Spirit reminds me that I can choose to rest my worth and identity in God’s mercy and grace. When I’m tempted to believe my phantom’s lie that I need to get it together I remind myself that I never will. Jesus is the only one that ever has, that is why I put my trust in him.

“… when I am tempted to hide my weaknesses, I acknowledge them to myself, God and others. I experience more and more undeserved grace.”

Corey Porter

My duplicity of soul

In conclusion, I consider my comparison addiction a sad irony.

I have committed my life to help others discover and experience Jesus. I pray for them, show kindness, relate and reason with them, persuading them to put their identity in Jesus and rest in his love and forgiveness.

Yet I personally have the hardest time living out and applying the gospel to the way I relate to my peers. This reveals just how much I am still and always will be dependent on God’s mercy and grace for my identity. I can only rest my identity in how God sees me, not grasping for it by my social swagger, talents, or successes. God is so patient with my progress. It takes a lifetime to experience the gospel transforming my way of functioning.

What does your phantom look like?

What words does your phantom use to haunt you? What truth from God’s Word do you need to fight your phantom?

How is your soul missing out in receiving mercy and grace from God and others?

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About the Author

Corey Porter

Corey Porter writes creative content for university students on multiple digital domains. His voice has been tempered by twenty four years of ministry experience, both as student and staff. His personal life is kept full serving his wife Peggy and three children in Vancouver. He enjoys sport, art and collectibles.

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