The art of comparing ourselves with others starts very young. Walk into any Kindergarten class and ask, “Who is the best reader?” They will tell you. Ask a group of kids on a playground, “Who is the best at soccer?” They will point out the most athletic kid.
We start comparing early and stay at it most of our lives. As adults look at themselves in a picture, they instinctively cringe. Recently a study concluded that the preponderance of “selfies” is contributing to an increase in the number of people seeking plastic surgery. We look, but we do not like what we see.
For some, the conclusion is an exaggerated opinion of themselves. For others, it is a negative response and might trigger a promotion of perfectionism. We try to build up our self-esteem on the basis of ridiculous standards. Some of us are “self-oriented perfectionists” and we focus big time on our own super high standards of accomplishment.
“Others-oriented” perfectionists tend to extend very exacting standards on everyone around them. And then there are the socially prescribed perfectionists that really believe that everyone around them is setting the bar too high. It is the boss or teacher or spouse who is making their lives so difficult.
Statistically, 40% of adults struggle with this kind of comparison and it is ruining many lives. Perfectionism, in any form, can trigger heart disease, irritable bowel disease, cause insomnia and even early death. Some experts say that it can even be as bad for us as smoking.
So how do we stop the merry-go-round this week of comparing ourselves with others?
Paul told the church at Rome to “not have exaggerated opinions of themselves, but to rate their ability with sober judgment.” (Romans 12:3-6) Sober judgment will allow us to look at a “selfie” and see our “real face.” It won’t be perfect, but it won’t be awful either.
Sober judgment will help us evaluate our accomplishments without having to actually compare them with someone else’s effort. Sober judgment will allow us to “call a spade a spade” and not worry that it’s not a heart or club or diamond.
Soon we will be able to declare with the Corinthians, “By the grace of God, I am what I am…” No comparisonitis!