Comparison & Contentment

Comparison is a drug, an addiction. And we feed it almost constantly, between posting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and then scrolling mindlessly like a zombie for longer than we’d like to admit. We’ve enslaved ourselves to this culture of perfection and constant comparison against a standard that simply does not exist. We only post the very best of our lives, the carefully positioned and photographed (and filtered) representations of how we wish our lives really were. And then we look at other people’s posts, other people’s perfect pictures and compare them to what we really know about our lives, and we don’t measure up. We never will. And that is truly terrifying. So we post more, better, on and on until we feel satisfied that we’ve proved to the e-audience that our lives are good enough.

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of pretending that I have it all together and I’m tired of feeling inadequate and like a failure when I don’t. I can see what this culture is doing to me and I know I have to fight it before it consumes me. I’m sick of seeing pictures of couples, perfect smiles, perfect clothes, perfect captions describing how perfect their relationships are, and worrying because I know my relationship isn’t perfect. And I’m sick of feeling compelled to post my own couple pictures as a rebuttal, even though I know about the argument that happened five minutes before (or after) those smiles.

Personally, I seem to be pre-packaged and predisposed to comparison. So why am I engaging in activities that not only exploit that weakness but actively prey on it? It’s not unlike an alcoholic working at a bar, or spending all of his or her free time at one. In what universe does that seem like a good idea?

We think that we’re capturing the beauty of our lives by constantly photographing and posting every worthy moment, but all we’re really doing is replacing reality with a cheap, fake photocopy of the original. Have you ever noticed that it’s nearly impossible to capture with a camera the exact colors you see with your eyes? Maybe that’s because we’re meant to see with our eyes, not through the lens of a camera. We’re meant to live in community with people, real people, and actually speak to them, hug them, see their faults and love them all the more because of it. Real life has no filters, no captions, no veneer. It’s raw and ugly and spontaneous and so, so beautiful for its lack of pretense.

In removing imperfection from the reality we choose to see, we’ve eliminated the opportunity to have real relationships with people. The illusion of perfection is driving us further and further from each other as we continue to see how imperfect we really are and then feel so desperate to hide it. In this age of social media we’re creating a culture of anti-social people, not by choice but by necessity.

I’m done with all of this. I’m done with the scrolling and the posting. I’m done with the pressure of perfection. I’m not perfect, okay? In fact, I’m horribly imperfect and broken and frankly just a giant mess a lot of the time. I’m in grad school, but hardly a day goes by when I don’t feel completely inadequate or stressed to the point of paralysis with the pressure of being successful. I’m engaged to a wonderful man, but we argue, we disagree, and marriage is almost as scary as it is exciting to think about. I love God more than anything, but sometimes I get mad at him, sometimes I reject his words, and a lot of the time I doubt him and try to do things on my own. I'm terrified of how imperfect I am, but I cannot express how incredibly liberating it felt to say all of that.

Maybe if we own our faults and our imperfections, we will finally be able to let go of the need to one-up each other with "happiness." When we're secure in reality and the fact that our lives don't have to be perfect to be wonderful, we'll see through the cheap facade of perfection and into the deep sadness and fear that it hides. Perfection does not equal happiness any more than imperfection equals unhappiness. 

Comparison ends only in heartache, but contentment leads to joy!

Laura Carter is a member of Freedom Fellowship and is currently pursuing a Masters Degree in Counseling at the University of North Texas