Confessions Of A Comparison Addict – Part One
An unidentified phantom lurks within me. It preys on my hidden insecurities and lures me into comparing myself to others. It cons me into thinking I have to be better than everyone else at everything I do. I am sad to confess I succumb to its power constantly. At times, I lose hope that I will ever vanquish its power.
This is my soul search to understand and fight off my comparison phantom.
I work beside exceptionally talented and deeply committed people, some of whom are trusted friends. We regularly gather en masse to share new innovative strategies and success stories. It’s supposed to be a time of empowerment.
Ironically, it is at these events that I consistently find myself most stressed and depressed.
The anticipation of such gatherings always surfaces a paralyzing anxiety within me. Anxiety I struggle to explain, let alone prevent. Before the gathering even starts, I am wired and tired. Nervous energy pulsates through my body, caused by conflicting feelings of confidence and inadequacy that render me numb. I feel my social reserves inadequate as I wade cautiously into the crowd. I am overly self-conscious and insecure. My mind races with comparisons of myself to others, nervously evaluating my status amongst my peers.
As the more formal times of sharing best practices and stories begin, I find myself inwardly reacting to each person’s presentation in one of two ways. First, I am either envious of them (secretly wanting the attention for myself) or reversely, I smugly think myself superior to them. I am sad to confess that I have often considered myself more qualified to be the one speaking in any given moment.
Both of my responses reveal a dark insatiable heart desire. My comparison phantom subtly persuades me that I will only be content when I have the most social swagger, come up with the best innovative strategies or share the best success stories.
This is my dark side: my comparison phantom. It appeals to that covetous part of me that wants to be the best at everything, even if it appears altruistic. That grievous and selfish part of my soul not satisfied to rest in God’s unconditional love and grace alone for my identity. That part of my fallen self that still wants to make my own name great.
Yes, I’m complicated. I spontaneously have these erratic yet polarized judgements coming out of me when comparing myself to others in any gathering.
For the brief moments that my peers’ talents and successes are on display I envy them. My inner dialogue goes something like this:
“I want to be as confident, entertaining and well liked as they are. I want others to discover, acknowledge and celebrate more of my successes. I want more stage time. I want to come up with the best ‘sure fire’ strategies and ideas. I need to do better.”
My comparison phantom cons me into thinking I can simply resolve and strategize to be the best.
I fail to see how my chronic comparison puts me under immense pressure, striving to make my ideals become reality. But it never seems to matter how much I imagine becoming my ideal self. Reality sobers me. The gravity of my sins, failures and limitations sober me out of any idle notions of my greatness. These rude realities of my fallen condition remind me that I am nowhere near who I want to be. I can’t live up to my ideal self, let alone be better than everyone else.
It is in these sobering moments of comparison that I feel my brokenness most acutely. All of my inadequacies well up and paralyze me with despair. Self-pity sets in. I struggle with the overwhelming inadequacy that my comparison evokes. I know I will never measure up to my ideal self. My comparison phantom pummels me into despair.
Other times I hear people share their stories and I consider myself superior to them. My inner dialogue sounds more like this:
“I should be up there speaking because I have a better story to share. I could do such a better job speaking than this person. If only they discovered what I have to offer. I wish this person was done so I can share my story.”
Either response reveals the deadly grip my comparison phantom has on me. Both responses reveal that I am utmost in my thinking, longing and grasping to be the best at everything and seeking attention for it.
I visualize the battle within me like this:
I stand before a daunting precipice. A huge chasm separates my current reality (my sins, failures, weaknesses, and limitations) and the vision of my ideal and preferred self in relation to my peers. As I stare across that gaping hole I feel frustrated with my efforts and condemn myself for falling short of my ideal self. I feel like I have to muster all my energy and courage to overcome my inner insecurity about the discrepancy. It is in moments like these that an invisible taskmaster overtakes my being.
He is a tedious task master who imposes a harsh and onerous regimen on me. He promises to get me to where the elite and talented live, and even beyond, should I abandon myself to refine my “jedi powers”.
I long to fulfill my phantom’s expectations. Inwardly I resolve to keep pace or surpass those I admire. But no matter how many times I make this resolve, I fall short.
I fail to meet my own expectations.
My energy wanes, I tire easily and fall behind.
My habitual sins are in my face and haunt me.
Strained relationships emotionally drain me.
Failures and setbacks weigh me down.
I continually meet others who appear more successful.
I am trapped in a vicious comparison cycle. My insecure identity fluctuates in every comparison. In my imagination I can ascend to the heights of my ideal self but then reality hits. I come crashing down in despair, resenting myself for not measuring up in real life. It is in vulnerable moments like these that my phantom speaks those poisoning words.
“Come on man: get it together!”
Are you all too familiar with a similar comparison phantom?
I am learning to fight this sinister phantom. I want you to fight as well. Journey with me in the next article as I unpack how I am “Learning to fight my (insecure, selfish) comparison phantom”
In what ways do you struggle with comparison?
At what times have you envied others? Who? What for?
At what times have you thought yourself better than others?