I have a disorder. I shall dub it Comparative Disorder (henceforth known as CD). This disorder manifests itself in the following ways:
1. Compulsive need to compare oneself to any and everyone.
2. Compulsive need to then bemoan how self does not, nor probably ever will, compare favorably to these said persons.
3. Frustration over self’s inability to remember that God has made her “uniquely and wonderfully.”
4. Tendency to allow comparisons to discourage, sabotage, or derail attempts to seek God and improve self.
5. Proclivity towards wallowing and self-pity.
6. Inability to view self and situations in a logical frame of mind.
Known triggers: beautiful people, skinny people, intelligent people, funny people, well-liked people, etc. etc. to infinity
On any given day, at any given point, I experience at least one, if not all, of these symptoms. My CD knows no bounds and can manifest itself daily or hourly, depending on how aware I am of its presence. And what is the point? In my eyes, I always fail in the comparison test, and then I end up feeling petty and small and doubtful of God’s goodness and His plan for my life.
I’ve noticed CD popping up a lot recently, and I am not sure why. I think a lot of it has to do with my immense desire to see more results in my weight loss, and it also has to do with the insecurity I feel about being a lowly, ill-equipped visiting professor among a group of intelligent, scholarly academics. I am so grateful for my job, and I absolutely love it (most of the time), but I can’t shake this nagging doubt that I’m not smart enough to do it, that I’m not able to challenge and teach my students like they deserve. Some days I really want to get my PhD so I can have the chance to get a tenure-track job with more-than-exploitative pay, but then I look around me and see how brilliant everyone else is and know I don’t have a chance. I can’t compete in academia; I don’t really think I have the drive or the self-discipline or the intelligence to pursue a terminal degree, and sometimes I really hate that. And other days I know I would be miserable if I went back to school, and furthermore, why should I give up 5 years of my life so I can experience poverty, endless papers, a monstrous dissertation, and no guarantee of a job when I survive it all? Then there’s the matter of children (I want to have them), and I know I don’t want to wait 5 years to do so but can’t imagine having a child while also pursuing a PhD, nor would I want to. I doubt my ability to be both an excellent mother and an excellent academic, and if I had to choose one, I’d rather seek to be an excellent mom.
In regards to weight loss, while I love SparkPeople and have found it to be so helpful in tracking my food and exercise, it also has its drawbacks. When I see other people’s weight loss goals or their current weight, I immediately compare myself to them, and I always come out as the fatter one who has more weight to lose. Obviously, not everyone on the site is smaller than me, but I illogically conclude that at least once a week. I also feel incredibly self-conscious when I see people on the site talking about how they’re “fat” when they weigh 150 pounds. I would love to weigh 150 pounds, but I definitely don’t, and I don’t know if I’ll ever get there, so that then makes me think that when people look at my goal weight and current weight, they are completely grossed out by how overweight I am. (As if I’m of enough consequence that anyone even gives my weight a second thought!) Or I’ll look at how fast other people are losing weight and then feel like my own progress is slow and my goal weight elusive, and I’ll just want to cry and give up.
The cure for CD? Unrelenting, desperate, all-consuming reliance on God, something at which I’m terribly inept. But if I could handle this on my own, I wouldn’t need God, would I? Never am I so reminded of His faithfulness, His strength, and His love than in the midst of my inconsistency, weakness, and doubt, and for that I must be thankful, for if my weakness leads me to Him, how can I fail? He is breaking me, and I rejoice in that, for “He wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal” (Job 5:18).
If you’ve made it this far, God bless you.