Protect Your Fortress

We’ve all heard it before: comparison is the thief of joy.

I honestly can’t think of a more valid phrase.
As I write this, I’ve just embarked on a much-needed and long overdue social media break. Though I’ve heard of the many benefits of taking one, I’ve never felt particularly drawn to it.
I don’t spend tons of time on social media, and I guess there was a part of me that assumed such breaks were only for those glued to their phones all day, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Whether you’re on Instagram for 10 minutes or 10 hours, what you see and read feeds your soul. I truly believe this.

This year has been one of my best.
I’ve won battles it’s taken me years to conquer, I’ve travelled to places I’ve only ever dreamed of travelling to, and upon reaching these milestones, I was filled with nothing but gratitude to God for the immense fortune He’s blessed me with.
To an outsider, it would seem as if I have nothing to complain about and, to be honest, I agree.
So why is it that I’ve felt so overwhelmingly sad over the past couple of weeks?

I’ve finally reached the conclusion: comparison.

What I’m learning is that there is no point at which your wealth, travels, or even purpose-led projects will render you immune to the mind-trapping host that is comparison.

Living a life of blessing after blessing doesn’t mean you’ll never be sad, which I honestly never internalised until now.

I write this because maybe some of you, like me, have fallen into a trap in which you believe that because you are happy, because you don’t spend too much time on social media, because you are quietly confident in who you are, that you don’t need to check in on yourself.
I’m here to tell you that unfortunately, you’re wrong.

Think of your mind as a fortress. It’s made of steel, and because of this, you believe nothing can penetrate it. And so you lie idle, you go on with your life, and you’re happy, truly happy.
What you don’t realise is that steel wears over time and, without the right maintenance, it grows weak.
If you aren’t careful, you’ll be too busy to notice its lack of strength and, before you know it, the walls will cave in and you’ll be tasked with rebuilding it from the ground up.

If you’ve made it this far into my rant, I’m grateful, and I apologise – that whole spiel was quite depressing, and I’m itching to edit a lot of it out. But I also know that my reality is someone else’s, and I want you to know that I empathise.

God’s timing is perfect and I believe all my experiences are purposeful.
Ending the year by ridding ourselves of the stronghold that is comparison could not be a better way to start this new decade.

But, how do we do that?

Here are a few tried and tested steps from me, to a fellow comparison warrior:

Take a break from social media

I don’t just mean log out of Instagram, Snapchat, or whatever it is you use. Delete them.
Delete all the apps. I promise you won’t dissolve into a pit of hot lava if you do.
You’ll be amazed by the IMMEDIATE effect this has on your mental health and happiness.
(Side note: be sure to tell your loved ones before you embark on this before they think you’ve disappeared off the face of the earth).

Gratitude list

What are you thankful for? There are no wrong answers.
Whether you write down a list every day, or say them to yourself each morning, take the time to acknowledge the good things in your life. Bonus: make a list of all the times God answered your prayers. Reflect on how long it took for said prayers to be answered and rest in the knowledge that God doesn’t allow us to suffer in vain!

Be explicit

If you’re anything like me, you’ll love making lists. And even if you don’t, I promise this exercise is worth it; writing focuses the mind and provides so much clarity.
Make a list of the areas in which you struggle with comparison the most, e.g. success, character, marital status, physical attributes.
Next to each area, make a list of the people that trigger your comparison and why you believe them to be superior to yourself.
Finally, make a logical / not logical column. Think of someone in your life that you trust, maybe a parent or a loved one.
If you were to show them your list would they label your thought process as logical or illogical, and why?
Getting out of your own head can be very therapeutic. When I’m able to see that the people I trust more than anything would label my thought process as illogical, I’m better able to take a step back.

Listen to what God says about your fears and insecurities

The Bible is life’s manual, but it can be tricky to know where to start.
Following a Bible plan provides you with structure and routine and can be a great way to explore the Bible, whilst also reflecting on commentary.
Some of my favourites this year have been “Fierce hearted, Live Fully, Love Bravely” by Holley Gerth, “Boundaries 101” and “Soul Rest: 7 Days to Renewal” (these can all be found on the YouVersion app).

Take care of yourself physically

Brush your teeth and shower first thing in the morning. Treat yourself to a cheeky face mask and scrub. Light a few candles and soak in the bathtub. Whatever makes you feel pampered, do it!
Looking after yourself on the outside helps you so much on the inside. By looking after yourself physically, you’re telling your mind that you are special, and that you deserve to be taken care of.

Spend time with people you love

There’s nothing in this world that makes me happier than spending quality time with my family.
Spend some time with the people you love, doing something you love, and try your hardest to be present in the moment and enjoy it for what it is.

Now you may be thinking, ‘none of these tips actually tell me how to stop comparing myself to others’.
Here’s the thing: ridding yourself of the comparison demon isn’t a one step process.

The idea is to fill your heart and your mind with positivity, purpose, and prayer, to the extent that comparison is no longer able to penetrate your fortress.

The idea is to get to a point where you love yourself and the person God has made you to be, so much so that comparison is the last thing on your mind, is no longer instinctive, and becomes a forgotten enemy.

Finally, and most importantly:

Remember who God is

Remember that this is not the first time you have felt sadness.
Remember that there was a light at the end of the tunnel that time, too.
Remember that you don’t have to suffer alone during this period of sadness: God is waiting for you to invite Him in. He is ready to comfort and console you.

Speak to Him, and ask Him for direction.

Remember that despite how badly your day may be going, God allowed you to open your eyes today and take today’s first breath.
That wasn’t accidental. You matter, more than you will ever know.

You are fearfully and wonderfully made in His image.

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