The comparison trap
Author Helen Roberts talks about the heightened thief of comparison now that we’re all spending much more time online
Many might feel trapped in our lockdown situations but I wonder if you might consider momentarily another trap which is perhaps exasperated by our confinement. Many of us are now having increased time looking at screens, scrolling through feeds and zooming into each other’s lives. Yet this new world comes with an age-old challenge – comparison.
As I scrolled through my media feed I couldn’t align what I was looking at with what I had heard previously. The smiling, happy, well-angled selfie looked like a happy family who were having a wonderful time – even a perfect day in. Yet a conversation earlier with one of the parents posing in the picture was, well frankly not compatible. Instead of it being their best day it was apparently one of their worst. They were having huge challenges with their thought-life and their marriage was at an all-time-low and yet the filtered gram made everything look perfect. It’s not that I thought that they should have posted something all dishevelled and angst-ridden, or added the full text to the kids’ arguments and their own marital dispute. But I was troubled by the pressure they felt to present something at surface level that wasn’t authentic.
My friend felt pressured to present a life that was comparable to their own ideals and their ‘followers’ expectations. They didn’t want to show what their reality was but rather chose to post a preferred version.
Let’s be honest, this comparison trap is something we can all get drawn into if we’re not alert and careful. We obviously post self-selected and self-approved photos. We upload what we like and in doing so invite others to venture their ‘likes’. Likes that can represent approval, affirmation and, for some, value.
Scrolling through our feeds observing the ‘candid shots’ carefully posed and edited, we can be drawn into a comparison trap. Comparing how our life matches up to the captured moments of someone else, and speeding us up the ‘comparison’ on-ramp to the road marked ‘jealousy,’ and driving us into competition with other women.
Jealousy encourages us not only to want what other people have but it also grows entitlement. They’ve not only got something we want but what we should have!
So how can we escape the trap of comparison and engage with social media in a positive way? Three quick ideas: capture your thoughts, learn to love limits, and know your value.
Be aware of your comparison triggers and take those thoughts captive. Appreciating a photo does not need to escalate your thoughts towards comparison. Paul wrote “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) Capture the tendency to compare yourself with others and hand those thoughts over the Jesus.
I actually love engaging on various social media platforms but I’ve set a time limit which pops up with a warning and locks me out after I’ve had my daily set time. A friend recently set themselves the challenge of reading the Bible for as much time as they spent on social media in order to manage the influences they were drawing from.
Finally, David wrote in Psalm 139 God’s precious thoughts about you are innumerable – no amount of little red circles of ‘likes’ will be able to exceed how much He values, adores, loves and even likes you. He made you incomparable, so live loved by Him.
Just imagine the freedom available if we break free from the comparison trap even before we are out of lockdown!
Helen is an inspirational author, speaker and leader. Healed from cancer in 1999, her aim is to encourage people to grow in spiritual maturity and to help people step into greater freedom as followers of Christ. Helen Roberts’ book The Comparison Trap is published by SPCK.
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