With Bella Hadid candidly sharing her mental health struggles on social media, Helen Roberts looks at the devastating effects the comparison trap can have on us all

Bella Hadid

Comparison is rarely the friend that speaks truth in love. Most often it is a deceiver, a mis-leader and a distractor. It steals joy, crushes contentment and creates identity dis-ease.

American supermodel and influencer Bella Hadid, envied and admired by multitudes, recently made it clear to her 47.2 million Instagram followers that she is not OK. Earlier this year she took a break from social media to focus on her mental health, and she is keen for her followers to recognise that “social media is not real”.

Polishing and publishing ourselves online often slides us into the waiting clutches of comparison. A myriad of images bring insecurities to the fore and escalate negative overthinking; images suggesting who we are not, what we don’t have, what we can’t do. It’s enough even for a supermodel who appears to have it all to realise that she doesn’t.

Bella quoted singer Willow Smith in her post, who said in a video (which Bella featured on her page, followed by selfies of herself crying): “That feeling of thinking that you’re good enough or being insecure about your art – is natural – but at the same time, I feel like it’s taught…That anxiety, like, everyone is feeling that – and trying to cover it up in some way.”

Bella followed this up with her own raw reflections: “This is pretty much my everyday, every night For a few years now. Social media is not real. For anyone struggling, please remember that. Sometimes all you’ve gotta hear is that you’re not alone…I want you to know, there is always light at the end of the tunnel, and the rollercoaster always comes to a complete stop at some point…”

So what are we being taught via the scroll-and-swipe on our social media platforms?

Comparison is nothing new

Of course, social media can also be used as a force for good. However, for Bella and many others it might be a trigger. Sometimes our social media platforms are a life class we need to not show-up for!

Bella’s words serve as a crucial reminder that comparison is as old as sin. It started long before the world wide web was spun. Think back to the first garden, where the first brothers compared their first fruits of labour, resulting in Cain killing Abel. And to the foremothers of faith, Rachel and Leah, enlisting to their womb wars in a quest to find love from their shared husband and favour with the women around them. And to Saul’s raging jealousy when he compared himself to David. Even Jesus’ closest disciples tripped into the comparison pit over who was the greatest.

I’ve been a church leader for more than 23 years, and have seen these types of comparisons all too often in churches. Leaders measuring their value against that other church over there. Worship leaders comparing their opportunities to the popstar-worship-leader releasing the next bestselling album. Members comparing themselves to other Christians, church leaders or to the ‘perfect’ people they’ve seen in three-minute videos on the internet.

Fighting the comparison trap

Is switching off social media the answer, as Bella has done in the past? If it’s a negative trigger, by all means switch it off. But let’s be courageous and tackle the root problem of comparison. There is a great teacher who knows us completely and loves us unreservedly. The bringer of joy and destroyer of despair. In him we find our identity and our worth. His name is Jesus. Pursue him.