(Photo by Selma Komisky)
Walking Away From The Comparison Game
By Brittney Perez
In my almost 30 years of life, I have learned many things and am still learning new things. I know I will be learning lessons for the rest of my life. The saying that “you learn something new every day” is so true. A life lesson I would tell my younger self would be: don’t worry about what other people think about you. While this is still something I am learning to do, I’ve definitely come a long way from when I was younger.
Growing up I always felt different from other people even as a kid. I actually didn’t really think too much about this until maybe a year ago when I looked back on my life and asked myself why I am the way I am (haha). One of the reasons I felt different growing up was for one, I am an only child and not too many people (that I know anyway) are only children. Also, after elementary school I was home schooled, so that also made me feel different from kids who had siblings AND went to public school. Not only did these factors cause me to realize that I wasn’t like your average kid, but the fact that as far as I could remember I always had a pretty strong moral compass made me stand out as well. Even before I was saved, if I knew something was morally wrong or if I knew my family would disapprove, I would seek to refrain from doing it.
Looking back, I can see where the Lord used this to protect me from many things and now I thank Him so much that His hand of protection was over me, though at the time I didn’t see it that way. All I saw was that while other kids wanted to break the rules and push the limits, I was the kid known as the “innocent one,” aka boring in the eyes of others. Now kids didn’t necessarily have to say these things to my face, actually many did not, it just seemed apparent through minor teasing and such that that’s what they thought about me and when you’re growing up and trying to figure out life you desperately seek to be liked and accepted by others.
When I started to get older (like junior high/high school age) I started to compare myself more to others only in a different way. Now as kids, not many of us have a “sense of style.” We just wear what we are bought and that’s good enough for us, but as we get older, we tend to look to others more and all of a sudden begin to care about what we look like or dress like, etc. We all have those photos as kids that when we see them now think, “What was I thinking?!” Well, I’m one of the many. I was a kind of a tomboy growing up. I hated wearing jeans. It’s funny now because I love jeans and wear them every day practically, but even in junior high I would wear either gym shorts or skirts (sometimes).
That was my thing, but then high school came around I started to compare myself to other girls who were dressing stylish, in other words not like a tomboy, and were popular. I wanted to be like that. I started feeling insecure about how I dressed and what others thought about my style. I wanted to look cool and be cool, so I began to pay more attention to what was popular. As I think back on all this, I can see how slowly comparing yourself to others at a young age and trying to dress like or act like other people can seep into your adult life. Even to this day, I find myself doing this at times. It’s crazy how small acts of comparison can lead to lifelong patterns of comparison if we let them.
When you’re young, you can be very self-centered. Shoot, even as adults we can be this way! You can start to believe in your mind that all eyes are on you. I thought that a lot growing up. If I did the unpopular thing and didn’t go with the flow of what other people were doing that I knew was wrong, if I dressed a certain way or if I didn’t dress a certain way I would feel like people’s views of me would change, like suddenly I wouldn’t be “cool.”
Even in college and into my adult years I would do this and I find myself still thinking this way from time to time, but I’ve learned something. I’ve learned that while a lot of times, we think that people are paying super close attention to us, a lot of times they are too consumed with what’s going on with themselves to be thinking too much of us. Now I’m not saying this to mean that people don’t care about us, what I’m saying is we live in a culture that focuses so much on “me,” “myself,” and “I” that a lot of times the concept of “you,” “they,” and “them” come second.
So basically, we may find ourselves concerned, worried, or even drowned in our thoughts about what others are thinking about what we are dressed like, etc. While people may notice these things for a quick minute, overall these things are unimportant to them because people are typically more concerned with themselves. Now this may sound egotistical and sad, but in many ways it’s sadly true. I think when I finally understood this fact that most people don’t really care much about my “style” or “how I look” is when I felt free to truly be myself. I realized that in the end, it doesn’t really matter what people think about how I look or dress. There more important things in the world to be concerned about anyway––that’s for sure. Now instead of thinking that all eyes are on the way I dress, when people see me, I want all eyes to be on how I represent Jesus and reflect who He is.
Overall, people may not be overly aware of how you look or even care about what you wore yesterday, but they do pay attention to how you act and treat people. I’ve learned that as a believer, people are watching you. They want to see if you talk the talk and walk the walk. Now sometimes that can be scary because we are all sinners and don’t always handle situations in a Christ-like way, but we should seek to. I’ve learned that It’s more important to seek Jesus and live for Him; showing others the grace and love of God, than it is to worry about what others think about my appearance. It’s not always the easiest task, as I mentioned that if we develop habits of comparing ourselves to others early on, we can continue to struggle with this comparison problem, but we can combat it with the truth of God’s Word and through prayer.
How we treat people and act is something people notice. When people meet me, I want them to see Jesus through my speech and actions. In Matthew 5:14 it says, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” For those who are in Christ, we are a light to reflect Jesus to the world. Just like at night you can’t miss a city due to all the lights, our lights should be shining for others that may not know Jesus to see. I’ve learned that in the end, that’s what matters the most; not how I look, but how I represent Jesus to others.
If I could go back and tell my younger self to care more about representing Jesus to others instead of worrying about what people think about my appearance, I would. While I’ve learned in life you can’t go back and change the past, you can strive toward a better future. It’s easy to look back on past mistakes and mourn over lost time worrying about trivial things, but in Christ we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The past is in the past! If you are/have struggled with self-image or have spent too much time worrying about what other people think about you, I understand that struggle. The struggle can be all too real and sometimes we need a good perspective change.
I pray that as you seek Jesus, He would give you a fresh outlook on how you view yourself and that you would no longer be held captive by worrisome thoughts about what others think about you. That instead you would seek to know how you can best represent Jesus to a world that so desperately needs to know Him. These thoughts about caring too much about what others think about how we dress or look are really just a chasing after the wind. It took me time to realize that, and honestly it’s something I need to consistently remind myself of. I pray that as you cling to Jesus He would give you a new way of viewing yourself and that you would seek to be more aware about how you represent Him to the world because, as I mentioned, that’s what truly matters.