Thunderstorms were predicted all day, but I wanted to go for a walk. I checked the weather for the time with the lowest percentage chance of rain (35% at 8:00 AM). Around eight I peeked outside—not currently raining. This was my chance. I darted out the door and took a lovely walk on a pleasantly warm February morning without the slightest sprinkle. It doesn’t always work that way—thus me selecting my jacket with a hood and carrying an umbrella just in case—but without a plan, without a strategy it’s even harder to avoid the rain.
And just like I have to plan and strategize to avoid rain, I have to plan and strategize how to avoid social comparisons. Because they’re everywhere, and just like thunderstorms we can’t avoid all of them, but we can plan around them, and protect ourselves against them.
What does that look like? For all of us it looks different, because we all have different comparisons that plague us.
There was a season a couple of years back when I had a book series release with a new imprint. It was crazy, awesome, exciting and exhausting. All of the authors were encouraged by our agents and our imprint to constantly be checking sales numbers. We ran a giveaway…did it increase sales? We held a Twitter party…how did that impact sales? Our books were featured on a blog hop…which books’ sales spiked on which days? And, I hate to admit, it wasn’t just the agents and publisher who got addicted to checking our sales numbers, I did too. And it was toxic. Because some days I would feel good about my writing, other days I would feel bad about my writing, and some days I would compare my writing to the other authors who I totally adored. Ick. Ick. And double ick.
Because my writing has nothing to do with sales numbers and everything to do with Jesus. He is the one who gave me words, stories, ideas and opportunities. Jesus calls me to write, and so I write. I try and do my best. I turn over the rest to Him. And He will put the words and stories He gives me into the hands and hearts He needs them to be in. Whether one book was meant to touch just one person’s life in a profound way, or thousands of lives in small ways, He knows and He’ll make it happen. But that’s none of my business. I’m just called to write. For Him.
So, I stopped. I no longer check sales numbers and rankings. They’re there on Amazon. I can peek at them right now if I want to, but I don’t want to. The only time I look is if I’m required to report the numbers for a new proposal or for taxes. This is a way I can intentionally avoid social comparisons.
How about you?
Throwing away your scale? Check, I’ve done that, too.
Resisting searching job opportunities when you’re already happy with your job—because it just shows you what everyone else is making, where they’re living, what their supposed job descriptions are.
Where do you tend to compare yourself that you can avoid?
Is there someone you need to unfollow on social media, because every time you see their posts you get a little jealous, or feel a little smaller? Is there a person you need to hang out with less, because every time you’re with them you wish you were more like them, or because they make you feel inadequate?
We can’t avoid all social comparisons. I’ll go to a meeting and the girl next to me will have the most gorgeous pair of boots, and I’ll second guess my own boots and covet hers. A mom at a basketball game will tell me about how she’s been spending a lot of time on Pinterest and cooking all these new, delicious meals for her family. And I’ll start wishing I had time to go on Pinterest, let alone cook new, delicious meals for my family, and end up feeling guilty that I don’t. When these things come up, there’s no way to avoid them, but we can protect ourselves against them. We need to put on our virtual hoods and put up our spiritual umbrellas. We need to go back to reminding ourselves who we are—that we are loved by God. That He doesn’t care about our boots or bruschetta. We need to take Paul’s words to the Corinthians to heart:
We are each given specific gifts and talents and situations by God to glorify God. We’re not supposed to have the same sales numbers, job description, family room or menu as anyone else. We’re supposed to rock what we’ve got, and rock it for God’s glory.
So when we can avoid comparisons, lets do it.
For all of us it’s different. But the storms of social comparisons will come. Let’s be intentional about sidestepping the storms when possible, and arming ourselves with the umbrella of truth that we were created to inspire awe so we can stay relatively dry when the rains starts falling.
“One of my friends posted a picture, and I’m 99% sure you and your husband are at the table behind them,” said an email from my friend, Amanda.
Crazy thing is, Amanda is in Germany.
Yes, my husband and I did go out to dinner. No, we did not take any selfies or post any pictures or updates about our date to anyone, not even a picture of the delicious pesto flatbread. But still, a friend of mine, on the other side of the world, was able to tell exactly what I was doing, where I was, and who I was with by scrolling through her Facebook feed.
Social media is fantastic…sometimes. I love seeing first day of school pictures and reading inspiring quotes and tweeting back and forth with one of my girlfriends about nail polish colors. Facebook is where I learned my niece had a soccer injury. Twitter is where I met my dear friend, Holly. I got an idea on yet another way to pair my favorite army jacket from Pinterest and viewed my friend’s new puppy for the first time via Instagram. But what about the stuff I don’t want to share, the stuff I don’t want the world to see?
We’re all hopefully savvy enough by now not to post things we don’t want to be made public. But what about what other people post?
What if I was with someone I shouldn’t have been, or been somewhere different than I had told people I was going, or doing something I’d regret or be ashamed of? What if that was what showed up in the background of a stranger’s photo? Who might see it? What might they think? How might it change things?
There was a show in the 70’s called Candid Camera that’s just made a comeback on TV Land. The premise is that a hidden video camera records random people reacting to premeditated Candid Camera stunts. A new episode has an actor reaching over and dunking their donut in the stranger’s coffee next to them at the lunch counter. There was a show with a public mailbox that threw letters back out at anyone trying to stuff their mail in the slot and an episode with a hundred dollar bill glued to the ground, so people would try to pick it up, but couldn’t. The funniest clips were shown once a week on prime time. All new clips start this month with a revamped Candid Camera.
What if everything we did and said this school year could get posted, tweeted or yikes, recorded and aired on TV? Anyone we might sneak out with, anything we might try even when we feel a nagging feeling inside -- like maybe it’s not such a good idea, could still get photographed for all the world to see, whether a friend takes a photo, or a random passerby, or an unfamiliar couple at a restaurant.
My email from Amanda made me laugh, but also startled me a bit.
Almost anyone can find out what I’m up to. With that in mind, I try to follow this rule -- think about two people I highly respect. Who are yours—can you picture them in your head? Would I want them to see what I’m about to do? Would I want them to know who I’m about to do it with? Would I want them to hear what I’m about to say? If not, I need to think again.
And at the end of the day, even if no on else ever finds out about what I did, I will always know I did it, and so will God. If there’s someone I respect, whose opinion I value most, that would be God. And God doesn’t need to hide a camera or scroll down His feed to catch me in the crazy antics and knee jerk reactions I make each day. He sees me make a wrong turn, burn the grilled cheese, wipe my hands on my jeans. He sees me at my best and at my worst. He sees us all day, every day, and loves us all the time, no matter how hard we try to shove that mail back in the slot, no matter what we wish we hadn’t done or are hoping to hide.
By now, most of us have learned to be wise about how we use social media, but remember there are candid cameras in virtually everyone’s pockets, and although my actions and your actions probably won’t be aired Tuesday at eight, it could be posted to thousands. And even if it’s never posted, God already knows. He’s there to help us make good decisions and be honest about who we are and who we’re with and what we do. And when we mess up, whether we’re caught on or off film, He loves us anyway.
I don’t know about you, but that gives me a great reason to smile.
What's the most surprising thing you've seen or learned on social media?
Laura's Recent Coverage in ...