Not long ago, I met with my friend Katie for evening coffee. She’s one of the most gifted people I know. She started her own Etsy shop that’s grown to be very successful, her entire home looks like a Pinterest explosion, she takes breathtaking photos, she’s a talented blogger, gifted thrifter, DIY crafter, creates amazing design work, and has two strikingly adorable kids and a hard working husband.
Basically anything Katie puts her heart to, she gets it done very well. What I love most about her is her love for Jesus and ministry. I also love that she makes me gut laugh.
While she sipped on her hot chocolate and I nursed my tea latte, we got on the topic of comparing ourselves to our friends on Facebook and Instagram.
“Yeah, I look at all the activities my friends are doing with their kids each day and then I think about what I’m not doing and feel like being at home isn’t enough,” she said.
I didn’t know she struggled with comparisons too. I mentioned how I’ve been working on a writing project that has kept me more distant from social media and how the break has been nice. I’ve felt more content.
“But, you know, I’ve compared myself to you too,” I told Katie. “I look at my house and wish I was as talented as you to decorate mine like yours… I’m nowhere near as gifted as you are!”
We laughed and talked about how there are two sides to every story and agreed how hard it is not to compare yourself to your friends. Facebook news feeds and Instagram photos are usually filled with the highlights of life – rarely the struggle. And these are your friends, not just random people. These are friends you love and care for.
In news feeds you don’t typically read, My amazing husband surprised me with a bouquet of flowers and a night out at a hotel and then we got into a knock-down, drag-out fight the next day.
You don’t see videos of your friends’ kids being defiant, disobedient, and calling names. You don’t see deep-seeded thoughts about loneliness or depression. You don’t see sweatpants, unbrushed hair, and no make-up. You don’t see tears, anger, and exhaustion. Or spiritual warfare or a crisis of faith. Or real battles with this or that struggle.
We have to be really careful about what we assume. Numerous times, I’ve been tempted to think a friend’s life is better or perfect, free of struggles. Many times I’ve grown discontent with my own life or felt insecure. This can all happen in person too so it’s more a matter of the heart:
Am I satisfied with all the blessings God has given me and where He has placed me? Am I truly thankful? Can I celebrate others rather than compare? Am I running to God to meet all my needs?
Let’s face it. We’re still going to use social media outlets but since they aren’t the full picture of reality, I think we can have a better perspective on the affect they have on our relationships. Here are 5 practices I’ve found helpful:
1.) Invite others into your story- the beautiful and broken. Most of us value connecting with friends in an honest way. Don’t be afraid to post photos of your mountain of laundry, trials, ways you’ve failed or lessons learned. Your friends will relate and most people like to know they aren’t the only ones who struggle.
2.) Praise the gifts and talents you see in your friends. We’re called to encourage and edify one another. If you see a gift active and alive in your friend, praise it and celebrate it. Help her draw out her gifts so she can serve others better and help make a difference in this world. She may never know she has the gift until you recognize it. A little praise can make a big impact.
3.) Invest in relationships right where you are. Be intentional about getting together with the friends you have close by in real life. Chances are you’ll see the full story and will be less likely to compare so much. You’ll realize that no one has it all together and you’ll be thankful for the strengths you do have. You may have the opportunity to encourage a hurting friend and be encouraged yourself.
4.) If it’s a stumbling block, cut it off. It’s great to keep up with friends online, but as mentioned above, if you notice heart or sin issues arising like covetousness, ungratefulness, unhealthy comparisons, extreme lows, or starting to get too attached or addicted, cutting it off and taking a break will serve you well and help set you free from the struggle (preaching to myself, here!)
5.) Confess your comparison struggles. It’s hard to be honest but it was good to tell Katie I had been comparing myself to her and other friends. She was the first to be open and that encouraged me to be more vulnerable. We also learned that we’re not alone. When we confess, we acknowledge it’s not right to be consumed with comparisons because it steals the abundant life that God desires for us to have.
Our relationship with Christ and each other is much more valuable than being caught up in comparison struggles so it’s definitely worth fighting against them in order to maintain love, joy, and oneness in our the relationships we care about.
Samantha Krieger is a pastor’s wife, mother to four, and writer in rural Colorado. She’s the author of Quiet Time: A 30-day Devotional Retreat for Moms in the Trenches. To read more from Samantha, visit her blog: www.samanthakrieger.com