It’s beach season. For me, where I live in northern Michigan, this means spending as many as five days a week on the water or in the sand. I see a lot of bathing suits in the summer! As I roll onto the beach with two babies and a stroller full of towels and toys, comparison comes knocking at the door of my heart.
Did you know we never outgrow comparison? You might be reading this as a 16-year-old who, every beach season, is looking to the left and right at the girls whose bodies you wish you had. I’m telling you this temptation to compare never goes away. I’m 28. I have two children. My body has changed, and my mind is just as susceptible to comparison as it was when I was 18.
In mommy culture (or just as a female in this world!), the “solution” to comparison is to exalt your own body. The more you take off, the more confident you are. Even if you’re internally dissatisfied with your body, you can put on a solid act to quell the feelings of inadequacy. But no matter how small the bikini or how great the body, comparison can never be treated with external solutions because it’s a spiritual problem.
I am more confident now, in this body changed by children, than I ever was as a teenager. But this isn’t because I have a better body by worldly standards (I don’t). It’s because I’ve learned to choose love. When I walk onto the beach and sense inadequacy creeping into my heart, I control my comparative thoughts. Here is a three-step process I use to do this.
- Recognize the thought for what it is. Some people call this “mindfulness.” The first step to beating comparison is to acknowledge the thought before it becomes an emotion. This happens quickly, so you have to be in your own head. When you sense yourself comparing your body to that of the girl next to you, recognize what you’re doing and use the virtue of self-control to stop it. This is a Spirit-led discipline, which means the more you seek God and His view of you, the stronger your self-control will be.
- Speak truth over yourself (and the other girl). We defeat lies with truth. But to do this, you have to first know the truth! This is why we expose ourselves to God through His Word each day. When you sense your mind grasping at comparison, you can speak over yourself: “God is a God of love. How I look does not change who He is or how He responds to me. I am secure in His love and because of this, I can love this girl without comparing myself to her. Who she is has no bearing on who I am.” Do you see how this truth takes the power out of comparison? You just got into your own head and beat temptation at its own game.
- Remember bodies are vessels for souls. Our world emphasizes the exterior because that’s all they have. Christ-followers emphasize the inner life because that’s what lasts. Our bodies matter, but they aren’t the end-all. Our bodies carry out what our souls are called to do. Comparing bodies doesn’t accomplish anything of eternal value and distracts us from the great commission.
If you can make these steps a habit while in your teens and early 20s, you will navigate the changes of womanhood with grace even as you age and change. The most important thing in life is not to preserve a perfect body, but to use your body to accomplish things of eternal value. We do this best when we reject comparison.