A couple weeks ago, some friends and I were running some errands on a Saturday when one of my friends suggested going through the Chick-Fil-A drive thru. I considered ordering a cone, but I figured I didn't need the calories and decided to pass. As we rolled out of the parking lot, I began to wonder why I didn't order one. I knew I didn't actually want one, but when it was right in front of me and everyone else had one, I suddenly couldn't stop thinking about that cone.
It seems like a silly example, but how often do we find ourselves thinking about those other “ice cream cones” in our lives? It's probably not a literal cone of ice cream that you're dwelling on (but if it is, you do you honey). Maybe it’s a relationship, academic success, popularity, or money that other people to seem to have more of than you do right now. We live in a world where everyone’s successes are advertised on Instagram and if we’re not careful, we can fall into a place of habitual comparison.
I genuinely believe that social media can be a great thing. After all, I’m basically getting a degree in social media. (At least I think that’s what a Communications degree is) When utilized the right way, it can serve as a tool to connect, encourage, inform and inspire. Social media itself isn’t the issue. However, issues arise when our worth is measured by comparing ourselves to the successes of others, and social media often magnifies and misconstrues those things.
I know how it feels to take a scroll down Instagram on a lonely Friday night. Laurel graduated with Summa Cum Laude. Yanny is engaged. Cardi is pregnant and has more money than me and all my friends combined. It can sometimes feel like everyone else in the world has it all together. But here’s the thing: NO ONE HAS IT ALL TOGETHER. Yes, even that girl with 3,983 likes and Carrie Underwood legs. Even the cheerleader who’s marrying the college football player and the medical missions nurse who’s marrying a doctor who just so happens to have a minor in missions so that they can serve the Lord in Africa like the saints they are. Yes, even they do not have it all together.
Social media only portrays the highlights of our lives. Most people don’t want to include eating McDonald’s alone in their car in the highlight reel of their life. Of course not. We pick the best parts and showcase them in a little square photo, hoping to prove to everyone that we are in fact happy, successful, attractive, and thriving. When things are going our way, we feel proud, confident and satisfied that people are so aware of our success. But what happens when everything is falling apart? We can effortlessly fall victim to the comparison trap.
When God hasn’t answered that prayer, brought you that guy, provided that job, given you those friends, it can be so tempting to just be resentful, bitter, jealous or angry. I have literally been there. Ever asked yourself, “OK but when is it going to be my turn?” My turn to get engaged. My turn to get the dream job. My turn to have a lot of friends. My turn to be rich and skinny and happy. The other week I was throwing myself a pity party (not a huge bash but definitely a small gathering) and someone asked me, “McKenna, what are you worshipping?” Ummmm ouch. I wanted to be like, “God, obvi” but I knew deep down that I had made a lot of things idols in my life.
Maybe you’ve idolized marriage, being successful, having money, or being well-liked by other people. We fall into the comparison trap when we can’t seem to obtain the things we idolize. Our perspective shifts from dwelling on the goodness of God to a place of bitterness because we’re so wrapped up in ourselves that we forget to acknowledge God for who He is. We complain more than we praise. We ask more than we thank. We make it about us when in reality, we exist to bring Him glory. When struggling with comparison, I have to ask myself two questions.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9
“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Philippians 3:2
“You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” 1 Corinthians 6:20
To live in a way that "dares to not compare" is a daily surrender. It's choosing joy over jealousy and gratitude over greed. And I'll be the first to say that it is a struggle. But rest in the truth that there's a time and a season for everything. I specifically hope that there's a season that consists of a 6 foot 3 lawyer with a heart for Jesus as strong as his jawline, a dream job, and everything else your heart could desire, but until then, keep pressing into the Lord and being present in the very moment He has you in. I promise that it's the very best moment you can be in.
I don’t know if you’ll understand because I feel like you never have a bad day.”
I nearly spit out my coke. I’m sorry, come again?
“I mean, you have it all together and you’re always happy. Your life is literally perfect.”
This was a conversation I had with someone a couple weeks ago and it really bothered me. I just couldn’t believe that someone actually thought that about my life. Like honey, are you feeling OK? Are you sure you didn’t get me mixed up with somebody else? I’ve always been a big believer in being real and honest. A lot of times, this looks like talking about bowel movements or telling awkward stories because, well, what you see is what you get. But really, vulnerability is what brings people together. It’s what sets people free. Ultimately, it’s a sign of strength to say “I’m not OK,” or “I’ve really been struggling with this.”
I never want to give off the impression that I have it all together, because truthfully I don’t, y’all. You can ask my roommates. I’m a hot mess. I forget about important homework assignments, I oversleep and miss class, I spill something on my shirt almost every time I eat, and that cup from Taco Bell has been in my car for the past two weeks. I drink way too many cokes and am way overdue on getting my hair done. Now that I think about it, I’m a disaster.
Still not convinced? Lately, I have allowed myself to slide into a bit of an anxiety slump. You may not know this about me, but this is something I’ve struggled with for about three years. If you’ve struggled too, then you know that it feels like a war is going on in your head. I’ve been a slave to fear, untrue thoughts, and ultimately the enemy’s scheme to pull me away from Christ. When I’m not spending time with the Lord or when my focus is on myself, that anxiety creeps back into my life and sucks the joy right out of me.
But even when I stray, I’m so thankful for the way Jesus always pulls me back in. I’m reminded of Matthew 18:12, “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?”
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in Instagram world where everyone handpicks the moments that make us seem like we have it all together, yet we all feel alone. So in the words of Julia Michaels, I got issues. When it comes to bad days, I’ve had as many as the next girl. But I know that even when things aren’t OK, they are, because of the hope I have in Christ. Every single one of us is fighting a battle of some sort. Let’s be unafraid of being open and real about what we’re facing because you never know who may be facing that same battle.
To the girl who is struggling, know that I hear you.
The pain, the shame, I know, because I struggle too.
Maybe we grapple in different ways, but I have struggles of my own.
To the girl who is struggling, please know you’re not alone.
See everyone is fighting a battle,
In public or within their soul,
We’re all a little broken and need to be made whole.
But we put on these masks, a facade, a show.
Afraid of what would happen if we just let someone know,
That we don’t have it together,
We’re messed up and flawed,
And sometimes we don’t feel all that close to God.
Sometimes we’re depressed but what a shame it would be
If somebody knew that I’m not always happy,
Sometimes we feel alone, but we’re afraid to say it,
And we hear God’s Word, but can’t seem to obey it,
We put up these walls, won’t let people in
Because we think they would run if they knew about our sin.
But to the girl who is struggling, I say take heart.
You haven’t been open, but maybe it’s time to start
Letting people in, breaking down the walls,
With just a stone in your hand, your giants will fall
Jesus is fighting for you, He’s in the battle in your place,
And the war was already won when He arose from that grave,
We still struggle, but the victory is ours,
Not on our own, but because of His power
He knows it all and He still wants our hearts,
He still wants our messes, and he wants our broken parts.
Yes, he wants our scars, he wants our tears.
He wants our failures, he wants our fears.
Surrender them to Jesus and be amazed at what He’ll do,
I pray one day you understand how just much He loves you.
McKenna Best is a Carolina girl currently residing in the Instagram influencer capital of the world. She believes in Jesus, dancing in the kitchen, and slow mornings. McKenna is an assistant youth director and spends her afternoons working with middle schoolers in West Nashville. In her free time, you can find her eating Chipotle, making an excessive amount of Spotify playlists, writing in a coffee shop, watching The Office, or spontaneously buying a plane ticket somewhere. She is passionate about equipping youth to unlock their potential and be all that God has called them to be, whether that be through teaching Bible lessons, or writing articles for a variety of online platforms