Theodore Roosevelt, always quick with a succinct and witty quip, said it well.
“Comparison,” he once observed, “is the thief of joy.”
And so it is.
Kay Wyma, our broadcast guest today, shares this illustration for how easily – and early – comparing ourselves to others begins.
She took her kids and a few of their friends to a day of fun at a local water park. On the very first ride, a young boy in their group was told he wasn’t tall enough to join everyone else.
He had to stand next to one of those height markers you see at theme parks with an outstretched hand and the message, “This high to ride.”
The height marker was there for good reason, of course. It was a safety feature designed to protect younger visitors.
But for that little boy, it came to mean so much more. It was a measure of his self-worth. In his mind at least, it publicly determined whether he was a young man or a baby.
Teenagers – and, yes, even we adults – perceive measuring lines of a different sort all around us. It could be the size office we’re in, the type of car we drive, or the title on our business card.
The tricky part is those measuring lines we pressure ourselves to hit generally aren’t real. They’re imaginary standards that we’ve somehow been convinced are a true measure of our worth. And even if the standards we come up against are genuine, it’s how we interpret those messages that determines whether or not we slip into discontentment.
Our materialistic, competitive culture feeds into this problem, constantly barraging us with urgent opportunities to spend more on this, upgrade to that, and to be the first to get the “latest thing.”
There’s even a new psychological condition referred to as “Facebook depression.” It describes people who are happy before their exposure to some form of social media, but unhappy or discontent after they log off. It’s comparison-driven. You see pictures of your friend with their feet in the ocean or sitting in their new car, and you feel unhappy because your feet aren’t in the ocean, or you’re not the one with a new car.
On our broadcast today, Kay Wyma will help us step off the comparison treadmill and will share how we can escape the comparison trap. One helpful tip she suggests is doing a “Mental Reboot.” Think about what you do when your computer gets stuck. You do a Ctrl+Alt+Delete reset, which reboots the computer and gets the operating system working properly again.
A “Mental Reboot” is the same idea:
- Ctrl: Control our thought process and identify the signs that comparison has infiltrated our thinking.
- Alt: Consider an alternate perspective that moves our eyes off ourselves and onto something more productive.
- Del: Stop comparing by forging a new pattern of thought – that is, refusing to let comparison rule our thoughts, dictate our mood, or send our contentment into a tailspin. Also, think about the things that you have to be thankful for. Gratitude is important. It’s hard to be grateful about what you have and still be focused on what you don’t have.
You can hear the broadcast, “Escaping the Comparison Trap,” on your local radio station, online or via our free, downloadable mobile phone app.
And don’t forget, I have a Facebook page and so does Focus on the Family. We’re also on Twitter (Jim Daly, Focus on the Family). So check us out there. Despite my earlier warnings about “Facebook Depression,” I trust our social media sites will leave you feeling encouraged and uplifted when you’re done!
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