Scripture: Genesis 3, Psalm 139: 13-16, Philippians 2:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12: 14-26, 2 Corinthians 5:2, Galatians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:4
I sent out a survey to the girls in my youth group with the question, “What is the hardest thing about being a teenage girl in this culture?” Overwhelmingly, the girls responded with “comparison”, “body image”, and “beauty standards.” We know comparison is the thief of joy (thanks to good ole Teddy Roosevelt), but even knowing that comparison is a thief doesn’t always keep us from getting robbed.
How do we fight the cultural standard of beauty that is shoved down our throats constantly on Instagram, Tik-Tok, TV, and other avenues? Today, I want to take you to Scripture to find some answers.
First of all, I want you to know this is something I struggle with too. How can we not struggle? Social media is like window shopping. Each little box represents a glimpse into someone else’s world. The windows are filled with beautiful things- talents, makeup, dancing, laughing… But do you know how window shopping works? Have you ever been?
You walk the streets, gazing into the beautifully dressed windows, wishing you could have what the store offered, but knowing you do not have enough resources to ever get what the store is trying to sell.
The window displays rarely tell the whole story, though. Behind those beautifully dressed windows lies a whole different world, and when we start looking more closely at the items inside, usually we realize we don’t actually want everything in the store. Sure, the window may be eye-catching, but the contents of the inside aren’t all appealing. You don’t need every size of the same shirt, or the men’s clothes, or every piece of jewelry, and odds are, you don’t even want or like them all! We pick and choose- we want jeans from this store, a sweater from here, jewelry from here, and the list goes on.
We do this with people too. We gaze into their lives, at least, the parts they put on display for us, and we start wishing our lives, bodies, and faces looked more like theirs. We shop in their windows and pick and choose which parts from which people we want, then we compare ourselves to the pieces we have chosen instead of looking at the full picture. We love them and hate them at the same time.
So why do we do this? Why do we play the game of comparison?
Let’s take a look at Scripture and let truth renew our minds. As I studied Scripture for this topic, I found three recurring themes:
- We compare ourselves because we are believing lies about God.
- We compare ourselves because we are focused on ourselves.
- We compare ourselves because we fear man and want approval.
Let’s dive into each.
1. We compare ourselves because we are believing lies about God.
Comparison started in the garden. Satan successfully tempted Eve to sin because he told her “you can be like God, knowing good from evil.” Eve compared herself to God, and wanted what He had instead of embracing joyfully who God had created her to be. Eve believed the lie that Satan sold her, she took and ate the fruit. Not because she needed it- she had a whole garden full of fruit to choose from for heaven’s sake! But because she didn’t have that fruit, and she wanted it. Eve did not believe that God had given her everything she needed. She did not believe that God, in His goodness, had already created her exactly how he wanted her!
The Bible says, God has made you fearfully and wonderfully, you should praise Him for the work of his hands (Psalm 139:14). What this means is God created your imperfections on purpose. God created your quirks, personality, body shape, eye color, skin color, and all of it is in His good plan. Do you believe He is good? Do you believe He is perfect? If so, you must be exactly as He wanted you to be. If you are not, He is not perfect or good. Knowing that verse, writing that verse on your mirror, setting that verse as your lock screen are all good things, but they are not enough. We must ask God for forgiveness- deep, heartfelt, forgiveness- for believing that He is not good enough or wise enough or loving enough to create us purposefully. We must delight ourselves in Him and in His goodness. You see, the way we see ourselves is directly related to the way we see God. The closer we grow in our relationship with Jesus, the less tempted we will be to compare ourselves to His other creations.
Now please, sister, do not mistake my words as a license to over eat, flaunt what ya got, and never do your hair. God has also made us stewards of His creation, and with that comes a responsibility to care for ourselves. In Proverbs 31, the woman is praised for how she cares for herself and her family.
Be balanced knowing God has made you beautifully, so you can marvel at the intricacies and complexity of who you are while still seeking to grow and develop yourself into everything He has called you to be.
Many of us know Psalm 139:14 which I referred to earlier, but have you ever read it in context? I encourage you to go read Psalm 139 in its entirely. Here is a link so you can easily access it https://biblehub.com/bsb/psalms/139.htm
I will include an excerpt here as well:
13 For You formed my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise You,
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Marvelous are Your works,
15 My frame was not hidden from You
when I was made in secret,
when I was woven together
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all my days were written in Your book
and ordained for me
before one of them came to be.
WOW. How beautiful is THAT truth? Let it wash over your heart, dear friend. Recognizing God as perfect Creator enables us to praise Him for how fearfully and wonderfully He has made us!
You are fully known, fully loved, and endowed with purpose by a loving Creator. Lay down your self-hate at the foot of the cross, and praise His name for the goodness of His design.
2. We compare ourselves because we are focused on ourselves.
Ouch. Stepping on my own toes here! Philippians 2 is one of my favorite passages in Scripture.
Here’s what the Bible says in Philippians 2:3-8:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped
7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Our ultimate goal is to grow in Christ-likeness, not people likeness. When we compare ourselves to God, we will quickly realize we can never measure up to that standard. Enter Christ. Who lived the perfect life of servanthood and died the perfect death, so we imperfect people could be redeemed and bring God glory.
We are called to serve one another, and when we get caught up in comparing ourselves to other people, the comparison breeds jealousy and hate, not others-esteeming servanthood. Unfortunately, comparison also leads to gossip and boastfulness as we work desperately to make ourselves feel better by making others look worse. “She may be pretty, but she’s soooo stuck up.” “Sure, her hair is nice, but have you seen her face???” “She only gets so many boys because she gives them whatever they want.” WHY DO WE TEAR EACHOTHER DOWN with hateful words and hurtful comments? Other girls’ victories do not equal your loss. We can cheer our sisters on, knowing that they are accomplishing the good works that Jesus has designed for them. Odds are those girls need the truth of Jesus shone in their lives a lot more than they need to hear words of condemnation.
As believers we are called to love and esteem one another higher than ourselves. If we are truly doing this, we will not be comparing ourselves. We are part of the body of Christ, and each member of this family has a distinct role to play. Some are arms, some feet, some hands, some eyes, elbows, ears, you get the idea. But without each individual member the body could not function properly. Can you imagine if an ear suddenly decided it wanted to be an eye? The ear chose to stop hearing, and tried as hard as possible to start seeing. Try as it might, it could never make seeing work, but because the ear tried to be an eye, the body lost its hearing and all the members suffered. This may sound like a funny example, but it’s actually found in the Bible! Turns out, we’re not the only people in the history of Christianity that have struggled with comparison.
Read this passage of Scripture from 1 Corinthians 12 and imagine yourself as one of the members written here- the ear, the eye, or the foot:
14 For the body does not consist of one part, but of many.
15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.
16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body.
17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?
18 But in fact, God has arranged the members of the body, every one of them, according to His design.
19 If they were all one part, where would the body be?
20 As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you.” Nor can the head say to the feet, “I do not need you.”
22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,
23 and the parts we consider less honorable, we treat with greater honor. And our unpresentable parts are treated with special modesty,
24 whereas our presentable parts have no such need. But God has composed the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it,
25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its members should have mutual concern for one another.
26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Scripture is clear- you were created by a Sovereign and perfect God to play a special role in the body of Christ. Are you causing the body to be void of hearing, seeing, or walking? Are you so focused on trying to fill another role, that you are causing the body to suffer? Trust today that God knows best, and praise Him for the role, body, personality, and gifts He has given you.
But don’t focus on yourself. Take your eyes and your mind off yourself, and put them on Jesus. As you do this, He will lead you into exactly who you need to be. He will make you aware of the gifts and mission He has given you. As John Piper says, “He is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Let’s stop our strivings after what others have and start finding our satisfaction in Jesus.
You don’t feel like you’re good enough. You don’t feel like you can ever measure up to the cultural standards. You feel trapped in an imperfect body. Surprise!!! That’s because you are not good enough, you can never measure up, and you do have an imperfect body. Embracing those things about yourself and letting them lead you into worship of the One who was perfect for you is VITAL in stopping the comparison spiral.
2 Corinthians 5:2 says, “We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing.” The dissatisfaction you are feeling in your body can be turned into worship as God uses it to create a longing for eternity. Lean into that feeling, but do it with eternal eyes. Let your imperfections serve as a reminder that eternity is coming. Your perfect body is coming. Rejoice in that promise!
3. We compare ourselves because we are afraid of what people think about us (Fear of man).
Fear of man. It’s a pandemic. It slithers its way into most every area of our lives. Let me give you a perfect example. I recently started this blog and instagram account. The heart behind it was good- bring God glory by sharing His truth with others. Great concept, right? As good as the intentions were, in a matter of moments, my wickedness and brokenness surfaced. Suddenly, I was afraid. What will people think about this account? What if people think I’m doing it for attention? What if no one likes it? What if no one reads what I’m writing? Maybe I should just put in very little effort. That way, if I fail, I can say I didn’t really try, and I didn’t really care about the account/blog in the first place. Ugh, other influencers are so pretty and have so many followers AND they know how to make reels (I really struggle with talking on video and dancing? HA forget about it.)… Can I really make an impact? Does my voice really matter? Suddenly my pure motives were tainted by my sinfulness. If we were only concerned about what God thought about us, we really wouldn’t struggle with comparison much at all! We would realize all humanity is equal at the foot of the cross. We would look at our fellow humans and think, “Wow! We are all so broken, but God’s grace has covered each one of us. Praise Jesus!”
Paul says in Galatians 1:10 that he would not even be a servant of Christ if he cared about the approval of people.
“For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
Think about Paul’s life- he was the head honcho in the religious scene. People looked up to him. He probably received gobs of praise for his religious knowledge and persecution of the Christians… But when God got a hold of Paul’s heart, he left all that behind. Why? Because the power, joy, and freedom is in Christ. Not in us. When we make ourselves our god, we are left with empty hearts and lives. “Instead [of fearing man], we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, not in order to please men but God, who examines our hearts” 1 Thessalonians 2:4. God has not given us the treasure of the Gospel so we can sit around on it overly concerned about how people are perceiving us. He has given us the treasure of the Gospel to share it. To shine it. To shout it. Don’t push your light under a bushel, let it shine!
As a believer, you are seated with Christ in heaven. He has given you a place at His table. He sees you as worthy because of the blood of Jesus. Lean into your relationship with him and lean into loving and serving others instead of comparing yourself to them.
Okay, it’s easy to read all that and feel overwhelmed, so here are some practical ways to fight comparison.
1. Get in God’s Word and let Him renew your mind. Meet with Him every day and remind yourself of who He is. Remind yourself of His perfection. Remind yourself that the design of you falls under His perfect wisdom
2. Pick one of the passages I shared above and memorize it. Quote it to yourself every time you’re struggling with comparing yourself to others.
3. Start a habit of praising God for how He created you. Think about your intricacies and complexity and giftedness, then praise Him for it!
4. Find a way to serve others- in your local church, in your community, in your family. When you’re tempted to fear man, ask God for help, then get busy serving. Not because you ever need to earn the approval of man, but because God has given you gifts to use for His glory!
5. Form accountability and community with other sisters in Christ who don’t feed your comparison struggles.
A lot more could be said on this topic, but for now, I pray these words encourage your soul as you pursue a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ. As always, please reach out to me with questions and topic ideas!
Your loving sister,