Contentment vs. Comparison

The Peony Project

Comparison is the thief of joy. – Theodore Roosevelt

If there is one self-esteem lesson I wish all children could learn, it is that they are enough. I wish every girl and boy could believe they are worthy of love because they are a child of God. From a young age, my identity became wrapped up in being “the good kid” and “the smart kid”. I never got in trouble. My grades were always perfect. I accepted nothing less than an A, and usually an A+ at that! I avoided competition, but if a friend tried to out score me on a test or rival my first chair position in band, I would discretely throw down. (I may have been a tad passive aggressive . . . ) But my biggest problem was that my self-worth was wrapped up in my performance at school.

Comparison and competition secretly worked their grimy selves into the midst of my relationships and left seeds of discontent. I unjustly gained self-esteem from performing better than others. Though I believed myself a genuine person and valued genuine relationships above most things, I still found myself uncomfortable with anyone who rivaled my goals.

In high school, I compared my skin, hair, and the size of my thighs to others. Sometimes it made me feel attractive. At least I don’t look like that . . . Other times it left me listless and self-conscious.

Comparison is unfair to everyone involved. Either you come out of the comparison feeling superior or inferior. Neither is healthy.

I would love to say that I outgrew all of these tendencies. And, as far as my physical appearance goes, I have grown much more confident in the fact that my identity does not depend on my pant size. However, as an “adult” I do fight the temptation to compare my career successes, or lack thereof, to others. Too often I let my failures define me. Even in my blogging, I have fallen into the trap of comparison. It is so easy in a world of stats and quantifiable popularity through “likes” on Facebook.

Comparison is an enemy to contentment. How can we enjoy the blessings God gives us when we are so busy being jealous of others? How can I be the person God created me to be when I am so busy wishing I could be someone else?

Our homes, husbands, children, clothes, successes, ourselves will never be enough as long as we allow ourselves to measure our worthiness against others. Fortunately, true contentment can come only from God, never from comparison. Over the past couple months, God has repeatedly reminded me that contentment comes from living within his calling for my life. My calling may not look like yours. And that is ok.

Comparison vs. Contentment

I have been meditating on this quote from The Life Ready Woman: Thriving in a Do-It-All World:

Even more confusing, sometimes, is the reality that a path that would end up disastrous for you might in fact be God’s perfectly designed path for some other person. That is not relativism. It is the reality that God has a unique design and calling for every person He has lovingly created. As Paul’s letter to the Ephesians puts it, each of us were “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (2:10). 

It’s not about what God has called others to, but what He has called YOU to do. 

What purpose has God called you to live out? Let us know in the comments below! 

The Peony Project is a community for women who love Jesus, love blogging, and are looking for a common space to share ideas, encourage one another, and make real, honest friendships with one another.

96 thoughts on “Contentment vs. Comparison

  1. Well said, Nathana! Comparison is a cycle that is so tough to break! I’m finding that even though I have a deep sense of contentment, I have to choose that every day so I don’t let comparison and envy creep in. When I have an envious thought, I sometimes think it can coexist because I’m still happy and grateful for what I have . . . but left unchecked, that envy takes root and makes me question if what I have is really good enough, or why I don’t have more of the good stuff. Such a great and timely reminder — thank you!
    Brittany Bergman recently posted…House Hunting When You’re a MinimalistMy Profile

  2. “Living within His calling”…Amen to that! There is no better path than the one that God uniquely designed for each of us. I can relate to this comparison thing and recently wrote about it on my own blog. Wonderful message here, Nathana!

    • Thanks Laura! It is a lesson I learned the hard way. I have certainly learned that I can embrace God’s unique design for me without comparing it to others. It is so liberating! 🙂

  3. Oh how I struggle each and every day trying to figure out just exactly what a God has called me to do. I grew up an anxious child jumping from activity to activity trying to please my friends. As I approach 50, I think I am finally figuring out that His plan for me does not have to be elaborate or fancy and I am embracing my knack for nesting and hospitality as perhaps my calling really is. Thank you for starting the conversation!
    Maureen recently posted…Bathroom Reveal!My Profile

  4. oh, I can so relate to this! It’s a lesson I think I’ve really been learning the past year or so, although I will still find myself falling back into the trap of comparison. Even today I was talking to a friend who has a Much nicer lifestyle than I do, and I realized I find myself feeling inferior. Then I heard a podcast by Marie Forleo that reminded me, we each have a different path and no matter what you are doing, your worth isn’t defined by your job, your bank account, etc. Thanks for sharing!

  5. I find that it is easier not to compare myself to others if I celebrate their gifts as well as my own, and recognize that our gifts are not the same. One of the beautiful things about humankind is that we all have different strengths and weaknesses, so working together is a necessity. If we spend all our time comparing ourselves to others, then we are missing out on coming together to create something more wonderful than we could on our own. Additionally, if we take our own egos out of the equation, then we give ourselves an opportunity to learn from those whose strengths are different from our own.
    Kara recently posted…Extreme DownsizingMy Profile

  6. This is such a hard lesson to pass to our children. We can do our best and then something happens that may not even be related to them… and they start believing differently. Still, it’s worth persisting and it’s worth reminding ourselves, too, that we’re enough just as we are.
    Tat recently posted…25 playful ways to get unstuckMy Profile

  7. My self esteem was always wrapped up in my achievements when I was growing up. I made it a point to let my children know that they were always good enough and their achievements or lack of does not define who they are. As a pastor’s wife, I’m constantly helping young women overcome some of these same issues you mentioned. This is great stuff!
    Alli recently posted…L’Oréal Excellence Age PerfectMy Profile

  8. Your childhood sounds just like mine! I struggled with feeling both superior and inferior (at different times!) for years. I don’t think I or anyone else for that matter, is going to be free from comparison, but I still think we get a little healthier every time we try.
    Bethan recently posted…February: how did it go?My Profile

  9. Thank you for this reminder. I think everytime I compare myself to others I do feel a bit depressed and it’s important to focus on my own journey rather than other’s. I’m still figuring out my calling but I know right now it is to be an engaged mom to my son and to bring SA mom bloggers together.
    Heather recently posted…Five Ways Your Toddler Thinks Differently To YouMy Profile

    • I know I feel like my calling is under construction many times. But, I think the calling of being an engaged mom is an incredibly important calling and should never be underestimated. Yet, I understand. Society tells us we need to be this, that, and a bag of chips! It is a difficult conundrum.

  10. It is so easy to compare ourselves to others over so many different things but it is assuring that God made us all unique and all different! I enjoyed your post and especially the quote on not comparing ourselves to others because none of us know the journey they have been on.

  11. I find that there are times when discontent seems to slip in or the feeling of not doing as good as someone else ans decided; Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.

    Thanks for your point of view!!
    Karren Haller recently posted…The Ultimate PartyMy Profile

  12. Great advice. It is so easy for me to look around and compare my life and circumstances to those around me. The truth is that we do not know what all is going on in others lives. God has called us to do certain things and called others to something different. I need to learn how to embrace this and be content as well.

    • Very true. We don’t know what is going on in other’s lives. Oftentimes the perfect image they project on facebook only shows part of the picture. Everyone has struggles.

  13. As I get older, I find that I’m becoming more content than when I was younger. I’m starting to become more comfortable with who I am. Unfortunately, though, the discontentment that stems from comparison rears it’s ugly head at times. Then I tend to fall back into the old pattern of worrying about how I stack-up compared to others. When that happens, I have to remind myself that I am my own unique self. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t; however, I would say that, overall, I’m getting better with age.
    Charlie recently posted…Life Lessons Series: MoneyMy Profile

  14. I so can relate to this! I have a huge problem with comparison. It’s like, what I have is never enough because I’m always comparing myself to others. Thanks for posting.
    Jill recently posted…InvisibilityMy Profile

  15. Yes- comparisons do so easily lead to discontentment. It can be very hard not to fall into that trap, but we never know what other people are struggling with. I try to remember that (though I don’t seem to always). And often the image that people put up for others is there own defense against their vulnerability.

    Jean Vanier speaks to this with this quote, I think:

    “We have to realize that this wound of loneliness is inherent in the human condition and that what we have to do is walk with it instead of fleeing from it. We cannot accept it until we discover that we are loved by God just as we are, and that the Holy Spirit, in a mysterious way, is living at the center of the wound.”
    Mary recently posted…Hoisin ChickenMy Profile

    • Beautifully stated! It is so true that often the “image” of others we are comparing ourselves to is only a silver of their lives. We don’t know their struggles, what goes on behind their closed doors or facebook posts.

  16. What a beautiful reminder that I needed today! We are not meant to be like everyone else. We were made to be ourselves. Thank you so much for taking the time to write this down and share it with us!

  17. I love the first line of your post, “If there is one self-esteem lesson I wish all children could learn, it is that they are enough.” As a teacher and a mom, I wish every child knew that they are special and that they don’t need to be like anyone else.

  18. I love this post. I have myself struggles with comparison. It is so hard not to compare ourselves, but we are all wonderfully made even though our journeys are different. The older (& wiser I hope) the better I get at not comparing. I am going to pin this, thanks again.
    Tamara recently posted…Main Event – Spring Break FUNPassMy Profile

  19. This is a very honest post. Thank you for giving us these reflections. I think you are spot on when you say that in the path of comparison you always fall on one side or the other, and never there to stay! So much better to your own sense of peace to practice gratitude. It’s a daily struggle, and I find it through meditation and yoga and some very wise teachers.
    Sarah recently posted…Let’s Here it for PiMy Profile

    • Meditation and yoga do help! I haven’t been doing yoga while pregnant, I probably should, but it did help a lot with relieving physical tension and focusing my mind. I’d found a great Christian yoga group. 🙂

  20. Thanks so much for this powerful message. I try to not be jealous of what anyone else has because I don’t know how or what they did to get it. I know that being content with with I have will only allow my heart to open up for more blessings. Keep blessing others and thanks for the reminder that I am on the right path with learning to be content.
    Nickida recently posted…Secure Your Valuables On The Go with Master LockMy Profile

  21. Oh, this is a tough and insidious one. Guilty. I had the same childhood as you; I was always the nuns’ favorite. Unfortunately, I had the same expectation for both of my boys. It was difficult not to be disappointed when they did not perform and meet my standards. Oops. It took about 40 years to realize the error of my ways. I find I’m so much better at “letting it go” at this point in my life. I’m headed over to explore The Peony Project Membership- I like the way you think!

    • Sometimes we have to learn the hard way! I think you would love the Peony Project–it is a great group of other bloggers. They are very encouraging and helpful! 🙂

  22. Funny thing, I’ve never really been super competitive. When I was younger in school, I rarely compared myself to others until probably more towards the end of high school. In college I found myself doing the same, and measuring my self-worth by comparing my looks, my grades, and my success to others’. As I was reading this, I realized that I haven’t done that in quite a while, and as I get older I realize that there’s not just one single version of beauty or of success or even of intelligence! I’m currently reading How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie, and he mentions a passage in ‘Father Forgets’ that says: “I was measuring you by the yardstick of my own years.” and it makes so much sense! Not only the years, but the experiences, the environment and even genetics. We all have our own “yardstick” that is only for us, it would be inaccurate and unfair to ourselves and to others to measure them by our yardstick, or measure ourselves by theirs.
    Tiffany recently posted…Creative Ways To Spark Your Creativity [Part 1]My Profile

    • That is very true! As an adult, I have realized that there are many beautiful people, and they all look different. Our differences often make us unique and beautiful. 🙂

  23. This is the exact thing I am teaching my kids. With people nowadays using social media to show off their material possessions whether because they want to brag or just simply are proud of it, there are some people who will feel that they have to do better. Facebook for instance encourages this behavior. But at the end of the day, teaching my kids to be content and not make comparisons is something I can do to prevent them from becoming one of those people.
    Chai Galapon recently posted…If You Think You Have Done Everything and Yet No Success Comes Your Way then THIS POST IS FOR YOUMy Profile

    • That is awesome Chai! Facebook is so deceptive too. People can project whatever “edited” image of themselves they choose to make their life look perfect. But everyone has struggles, and material possessions do not equal contentment.

  24. I really struggle with this, I was wrapped up in identifying myself with my grades in school and with always being “perfect” at everything. I’ve noticed when I start comparing my unique journey to others’, I’m always left feeling worse than if I would’ve just stayed out of it. We will never know their whole story and I’ve found that it’s all too easy to compare our worst moments to their best moments, definitely not healthy! Thank you for this reminder, especially in what seems like such a polished world!
    Ashley Krout – i Find Hope recently posted…March Oil Spotlight: Wild OrangeMy Profile

    • You are welcome! There are so many “polished” worlds around us on Facebook and other social media, but those are just edited versions of people’s lives.

  25. I am guilty of setting high standards for my children…I always wanted them to have the best grades, be the best in their class, first on the team, and so forth until one day I realized that they were their own person and did the best they could and if #1 wasn’t it then that’s what I would have to live with as they were happy no matter what.
    Renee S recently posted…Fruit Cobbler/Free Baby Items/Pretty PinwheelsMy Profile

    • Yes, I know I will struggle with that in some ways as a parent. I believe we want our kids to do their best, but their best may not be perfection, that’s ok! Plus, with grades, I want my kids to have a love of learning versus straight A’s. I got so caught up in the grade game that I sacrificed my love of learning in some classes.

  26. Comparison is never more fierce than when you have a baby – all the mothers comparing how many hours a night their babies sleep, when he says his first word, when he walks… It’s difficult to block out but for the sake of my sanity I had to – because we all end up with bright, happy kids in the end.
    Donna recently posted…Five Good Reasons To Laminate Your LifeMy Profile

    • Good to know! I am about to become a mom, so I will have to be careful and guard my heart against that. I know even with pregnancy moms compare how much weight they’ve gained, etc.

    • Yes, it is easy to compare page views or comments and feel bad. I know I have struggled with that. To fight against it, I try and take a step back and focus on quality and communication, rather than numbers. But it is hard and some days I fall into playing the numbers game.

  27. Being the age I am now, I don’t compare myself or what I have to others. I enjoy my life as it is with my husband, if it is something that I want or need it is not so because of what others have, it’s just based on what we can do.
    Christine Paul recently posted…Crimini Mushroom FarfalleMy Profile

Comments are closed.