Avoiding the Comparison Trap
Caitlyn Meissner, Guest Contributor
I’m a writer, and a comparison addict. Maybe you’re one, too. You tried to write a novel for fun, only to have it turn into a competition. You began caring more about grades and applause than about your characters and story world. You started looking around at other writers and wondering why you never measured up. I know. My own addiction grew so strong that it crippled me. I stopped writing stories altogether.
Until recently. Because, today, I’m a former addict. Yes, I still struggle. But I found new freedom when I discovered some important truths about comparison.
Comparison Kills Creativity
Comparisons accumulate. They slip easily off the tongue. “Why are his descriptions better than mine? How come her characters are so much more interesting? Why does my novel never sound as good on paper as it does in my head?”
At first, I thought comparisons would help me. I expected to learn from other people’s successes, adapt, and grow stronger.
Instead, comparison destroyed my creativity. The story concepts that once excited me seemed suddenly tarnished and stale. As I rejected one story goal and plot twist after another, my stream of ideas dried up.
And as they did, my insecurity increased. Whatever I wrote seemed lifeless, flat, boring. I hated my stories. I hated writing.
But things changed the day I stopped focusing on other writers. They changed when I started asking myself, “What do I like to write? How do I like to write? I used to be passionate about my stories. Am I still passionate about anything? What is it that brings me joy?”
That’s when I discovered that writing isn’t about performance. It’s about being … me. And when I let go of the comparisons and once again started creating the quirky, humorous characters that I love so much, I found I hadn’t lost all of my ideas after all.
Comparison Kills Productivity
It’s easy to look at talented authors and deceive yourself into thinking that writing isn’t worth your time. You’ll never be as good as they are, so why bother?
But while I sat around, trapped in a quagmire of comparisons, my friends kept practicing. And you know what? Their skill increased, and their stories are much stronger now than they used to be.
Here are two steps to keep comparisons from ruining your productivity. First, guard your eyes. Keep your focus on your own writing, where it belongs. Second, stop desiring the talent other writers have. That’s called coveting. God gave us all different talents and abilities, and He wants us to use them, not squander them.
So don’t stop writing, even when it sounds awful. Remember, artists only fashion masterpieces because they once cared enough to gather a lump of clay, or mix a blob of paint, or chisel out a rough block of marble.
Comparison Kills Friendships
No one enjoys having a friend who’s always looking at you and judging you.
For most of my life, I was that kind of friend. My addiction to comparison kept me from enjoying people for who they were. I would measure myself against them, discerning strengths and weaknesses on the basis of my own warped perspective. Instead of rejoicing when a friend succeeded, I’d dislike them for it. Instead of strengthening their weak places, I enjoyed when they embarrassed themselves. I wasted so much time trying to be better than other people because I couldn’t bear to let anyone see how weak I really was.
In a true friendship, comparison isn’t an issue. I’ve known writers who’ve spent hours critiquing a friend’s story when they could have been working on their own. I’ve seen writers come together and brainstorm for a friend who’s run out of ideas. And every winning novelist can testify to having a group of friends who encouraged them, no matter what.
When we consider others as more important than ourselves (Philippians 2:3), we destroy the hold that comparison has on our friendships.
And when you decide to partner with another writer, you may discover what many others have— true, sacrificial friendship makes your own writing stronger, not weaker.
Love Kills Comparison
When I finally realized what my addiction to comparison was doing to my life, I tried everything I could to free myself.
Only … it didn’t work. Not really. I mean, I made some progress, but what do you do with an addiction so ingrained into your thought life that you’re knee-deep in comparisons before you even realize it?
In desperation, I came before the Lord and repented. I asked if He would free me.
His reply? “I love you.”
And … it’s true. He loves me for who I am. He loves me the way I am. It’s not about works. It’s all about grace. He doesn’t compare my strengths and weaknesses. He sees the whole me, and is satisfied.
The Lord gave me a promise that day: “What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open” (Revelation 3:7 NIV). And I believe that He, in His mercy, shut whatever door in my heart and mind that I had opened to comparisons.
I still struggle, but it’s not the same. I don’t get knee-deep without noticing. Just ankle-deep. It’s easier to pull myself out.
I’ve found new joy in writing, and in life. I love my characters again. I want to learn and grow. And I’ve been blessed with a few good friends who encourage me.
Yes, I still make mistakes, but I’ve found healing. His love heals. It can heal you, too, if you let it.
Have you ever struggled with comparing yourself to others? What has helped you to stop?
Caitlyn never knew what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her life goal was simply to follow God. And now she can testify that He is a good leader, a Father, and a friend. Caitlyn is passionate about stories, teaching, prayer, and finding hidden meaning in everything. After a year full of travel and adventure and learning to live out of a backpack, she’s excited to be leaving for her first mission trip in January.
I have definitely struggled with comparison. In fact, I wrote an article almost identical to this on my blog awhile back (it even had a similar title!). This is a very prevalent issue among writers and other creative types, and it’s something that definitely needs to be addressed. There’s so much freedom in breaking out of comparison.
Thank you so much for this post, Caity. I too would have to call myself a comparison addict, and one that is still working on killing that addiction. Thank you so much especially for reminding me that God loves me for who I am. It really brought to mind the thought that He created everyone differently and with different talents. There are no two people the same. I need to write and grow in my writing not to get better than other people, but because God has given me the talent of writing and has called me to use my talents for His glory. I need to focus on God and not my own selfish desires or comparing myself to others. He gave me this talent for a reason and I’m going to use it to the best of my ability to bring glory to His name!
This is excellent! Not only helpful, but well written! 😉 And so applicable in many areas of life.
In the context of music rather than writing – and music is another great comparison- mentality-creator – many years ago, our worship pastor said to us, “There will always be someone who plays better than you and there will always be someone who doesn’t play as well as you.” I have never forgotten this free-ing revelation, and have shared it with my children numerous times. Comparison sucks life from us. Go Caity!