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COMPARISON: The Thief of Joy

Yes, I said it. And you’ve felt it. That awful game of comparison we play with our inner self when we are on social media (especially) or anywhere else. As humans, we can’t help but compare ourselves to others. I mean, come on…everyone posts their most polished moments of their lives, whether it be their family, career path, workout body, food choices–basically a trophy case for their accomplishments, many times.

Unlike years ago where the only opportunity to brush up against what was going on in the world was with the old family radio, now our devices are in our hands or near us 24/7 barraging us with images that, many times, are even photoshopped to make our ‘friend’ look better (us girls are really accomplished at spotting this little quick “make-over’ feature though–and we know it is not genuine, yet we are tempted to do the very same thing!)

I’m sure that in the mid 20th century no one knew those tiny details of their neighbor’s lives (what porcelain dishes they owned, or what quilt they had on their bed), yet in contrast, with the tap of our finger, we can become a witness to not only the lives of our next-door neighbor, but also celebrities! This platform for connection which has done great things for our relationships and businesses also has a dark side. One study in the Journal of Epidemiology studied the effects of time spent on social media versus face-to-face time with others. When present with others our self-esteem goes up and our life satisfaction does as well. Observing others online has the exact opposite effect. Envy is our enemy. God wants us to have joy and contentment. (John 15:11) Remind yourself these are only snapshots of a person’s life.

We all know that “one person” that has an absolute train wreck of a life that fools us all with their fake reality on social media peppered with tons of virtue signaling. Some of us almost wretch at this sad scenario. But we don’t tend to acknowledge that our own posts of our perfect vacations, great meals out, and time with family are really only our “high points,” yet unintentionally may be opening the door for others to envy us– even though we know that the ten commandments tell us not to envy our neighbor. Sometimes it makes me embarrassed of what I’ve posted in the past. Gosh, I had a pang of uncomfortableness about it recently, and I’ve tried to reign back my tendency to want to post everything I do. I want to stay connected, yet I don’t want to make others feel like I’m something I’m really not. But if I experience a moment of joy at God’s beauty (i.e. a puppy or beautiful outdoor scenery) –you better bet I’ll post it–hopefully giving him the glory.

When I put down social media I realize I READ more and the pile of books I’m DYING to read starts to get smaller. I LOVE to read–in fact, its the most delectable thing I let myself do–yet social media robs me of the time to enjoy this favorite past time. I start to look in the mirror more and less at others–be it women and men, comparing myself to them. I get less depressed as well. Instead, I try to create a space of gratefulness and contentment. Most of all, God has always been faithful to remind me of the particular gifts he has particularly gifted to ME–things I forget so often that make me who I am at my core–then I practice some self-love and try to see myself more as God sees me–special, unique, with beauty and gifts like NO OTHER!

Me, my dogs, jeans, and comfy clothes, that’s me.

My most poignant example of this was from a photoshoot I did for a book I wrote years ago. I’d communicated back and forth with this photographer for months before finally booking a sitting with her. I’d admired her photography, style, and –honestly, HER! She was the ultimate of cool, hot, young, and artsy. But then there came a knock on the door the day of the photo session. I opened and said, “Hello, may I help you?” To my utter dismay, the photographer I’d followed and admired for months looked (literally) like my friend’s Italian grandmother–no kidding! She must have been as shocked as me that I didn’t recognize her without the soothing of her skin, erasing her pores, doctoring her leg, arm and body proportions, even changing her facial structure!

So I blundered through some stupid explanation for my shock and confusion and went right into the photo session. Can you believe, when I got the photos back EACH one was so incredibly edited that it did not even look like Donna Stanley (I know her pretty well). I asked her to keep me “natural” (ok, you can change my eye color on that pic to match my clothes, maybe something here and there, but that was it). I kept one photo just so I could show people how extremely you can edit yourself into an absolute fake’ freak’ with the right software.

–look how my facial structure has been changed–that’s not ME!!!

But, furthermore, CHRISTIANS even use social media to make us look like we have so much faith and trust in God or are SO gifted or SO talented with our spiritual gifts (pardon me while I puke–sorry) I Corinthians 12 kicks this idea out the door pretty swiftly. Our identity in Christ requires no ‘retouching” as He has already made it PERFECT. Lean into this one. (((HUGS)))–Donna

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