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The Danger of Comparison



Can the words “comparison” and “danger” go hand-in-hand? Most of us don’t think about these words in the same sentence. Comparison cuts deep; its effects are long-lasting, and more often than not, its wounds are self-inflicted.

I love to celebrate my birthday, but I haven’t always. I used to dread birthdays like some people dread the dentist, tests, or monday mornings! My dread of birthdays may be due to a letter my high school english teacher had me write and mail to myself, which consisted of a list of things I planned to accomplish by the age of 23. I remember feeling totally defeated as I crept closer to and eventually passed my twenty-third birthday: my plan had failed, so I thought.

My childhood consisted of many hours of listening to Whitney Houston’s first album on my cassette player, singing every word to every song, pretending I was on stage entertaining the masses. At 12, I entered my first singing competition and won. In my mind, this sealed my fate, and I was destined for stardom. At 20, I moved to nashville to pursue a music career.

Eventually, I landed a job as a grunt at one of the most prestigious booking agencies in the country. My plan was simple. I would learn the business, build relationships, and when the time was right, I was sure to be discovered. I quickly learned that I wasn’t the only one with this plan. I was running in all the right circles and networking with all the right people, but as I listened to them talk about the industry and their accomplishments, my tendency for comparison reared its ugly head. I began to wonder if I had what it took. What if i was delusional like all those crazies on “American Idol”? I mean, we couldn’t all make it big!

Before long, my hope had been consumed by doubt and I left my job on Music Row.

Thankfully, my story doesn’t end here. Music was in my blood, and I eventually came back to it, but not before hashing through some very dark places in my heart. Shortly after leaving my job at the agency, I had a life-changing conversation with a friend. He said, “There will always be someone better than you, and that’s okay. It’s not about being as good as or better than they are. It’s about being all that you’ve been created to be, and walking the path that’s been laid out for you. You be the best you can be and do what only you can do.”

My friend’s words proved to be the most freeing advice I’d ever received. As I thought about those words, I recognized how constant comparison had negatively affected my self-image. I needed to learn to appreciate the things that were unique to me and redefine success in my mind. Success wasn’t to be found in perfection, and shouldn’t be measured against someone else’s life. Success was in being all I could be. It was that simple change in perspective that eventually led me to the life I was meant to live.

The following year, as my twenty-fifth birthday approached, something in me had changed. I no longer dreaded that another year had passed since my twenty-third birthday. I was excited and faced the next year with anticipation. I was finally comfortable with who I was.

Comparison is one of the most destructive things we can do to ourselves. It breeds discontentment, which leads us to believe that what we have or who we are isn’t good enough. Its attacks are subtle. Overcoming the curse involves becoming aware of it and combating it with truth.

If, like me, you sometimes find yourself tempted to compare, remember that you have a gift to serve a unique purpose. Life is not a competition—your success doesn’t depend on someone else’s failure, nor does someone else’s success equal your failure. Success is about being and doing your best.

We are all on a journey, and there are many things to be learned along the way. Be fully engaged in your journey and resolve not to play the dangerous comparison game.

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