by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

There are four “Cs” that thwart progress, strangle happiness, rob us of inner peace and keep satisfaction at an unreachable distance, and these are infamously known as criticizing, condemning, complaining and comparing. Each could be expounded upon and perhaps will be in future columns. But this week I am pondering the pitfalls of comparing.

How often I have looked at other people and compared myself to them! In my early childhood, many times I wanted to ask someone to come over to play at my house, and I didn’t. “Why would they want to come to my house? Their house was so much bigger and prettier,” I lamented. I’ve often wondered how many friendships I missed out on because of my own feelings of inferiority.

In high school, comparisons were inevitable and not always by choice. Social cliques were obviously distinguished by those who were on the cheerleading or drill teams and those who were not, the pretty girls and the plain girls, the skinny girls and the fat girls, the smart girls and the, shall we say, academically challenged girls, as well as the designer-dressed girls and the bargain-basement-fitted girls. And you were very clear how you stacked up and to which group you belonged.

After many school years of comparing as an acceptable mode of behavior, perhaps it’s no surprise that, as adults, we continue to compare ourselves with our neighbors, friends and colleagues. The problem with comparing is it often leads to envy, jealousy, unnecessary competitiveness and an undermining of our own self-worth.

In fact, comparing oneself with others is the basis for the old adage “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” meaning we believe others are always in a better situation than we are, although they may not be.

Measuring ourselves against others sours our life, creating anxiety, stress, isolation and depression. It is a fruitless exercise and an incredible waste of energy. The truth is, there’s no one like us, and this makes us incomparable.

We’re each one of a kind with different traits, talents, skills and abilities. Each of us has God-given special gifts. We have our own life purpose to fulfill. The bottom line is no one can do a better job of being you than you.

As a middle-aged woman, I’ve grown weary of fretting about her funnier jokes or her smaller bottom or her newer car or her bigger paycheck or her flatter stomach and so on and so on. I’ve finally tired of feeling inadequate and not good enough.

On our cattle ranch, I’ve seen fields rich with green grass with always that cow who would rather risk getting her head stuck in between barbed-wire to eat grass on the other side of the fence than to eat what’s right at her feet. And the grass truly wasn’t any greener or better. In fact, the grass on the other side of the fence had not received the fertilizer the grass in the hayfields had received and truly wasn’t as good and nutritious. I’ve decided that perhaps I’ve spent too many years like that silly cow, not recognizing the good at hand in my own self.

In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul gives an insightful and helpful analogy on the futility of comparing. He describes one body having many different parts, illustrating the import and uniqueness of each part. Each of these parts has a viable and needed role — not one is better or less important than another. While all are diversely different from the others, all are united into one body. (1 Corinthians 12:12-26)

Pondering this beautiful analogy has helped me recognize my uniqueness and special gifts and, consequently, also value and appreciate who I am — what makes me a “second to none” me. I suspect we all can do a much better job being ourselves than attempting to be someone else. I’m beginning to ask myself, “Why not just be the best possible me instead of a poor imitation of her.”

So, these days I’m working on being the best “me” I can be. I’m no longer comparing myself to others. If I’m not happy and satisfied, it’s because I want to be a better “me.” I think now my problem is that I tend to sometimes compare my middle-aged self with my younger self, and then I like the younger self better. Well, at least I like the smaller bottom and flatter stomach better! But that’s another story…