4 Ways Women Can Fight the "Comparison Trap”

Shannon Popkin and Lee Nienhuis

Updated May 15, 2024
4 Ways Women Can Fight the "Comparison Trap”

I was in a car with a bunch of my friends when Jen told an embarrassing story about falling on her boyfriend and putting him in crutches with a severely sprained ankle. We laughed over how mortified Jen felt, and then I said, “Poor guy. He’s probably embarrassed that a hundred-thirty-pound girl can take him out!” 

Jen turned to me with a horrified expression and said, “I do not weigh a hundred and thirty pounds!" Now it was my turn to be mortified. “Oh, sorry…” I mumbled. 

I hadn’t meant to offend her. I actually did weigh a hundred and thirty pounds—which apparently was horrifying. 

Over the coming days and months, I replayed the interchange in my mind. Had I been ridiculously foolish to think Jen and I were the same size? Was it obvious to everyone else that I weighed more? And what sort of fresh horror would register on Jen’s face if she found out I did weigh that disgusting amount? Decades later, I sometimes find myself wondering what Jen’s reaction would be to the current number on my bathroom scale. 

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/tommaso79

Two women jealousy rivalry

Comparison Trap

God didn’t create people to all weigh the same amount, have the same gifts or influence, generate the same wealth, or have the same relationships. We are different on purpose, and comparison is simply noticing those differences. The problem comes, however, when we attach values to those differences.  

Notice that in that car I hadn’t been worried about my weight when I figured I was about the same as my friend. But once my friend (without intending to) called attention to the difference between us, and made it clear that the difference was undesirable, it was all I could think about. Her comparison made me feel inadequate, flawed, and exposed. It laid a trap I was still falling into decades later.  

Do you ever get tangled up in comparison traps? Perhaps for you, the evidence of your inadequacy shows up—not on a scale, but in your marital status, your job title, or your follower count on Instagram. For you, maybe it’s not a friend’s disgust haunting you; it’s the disgust from your mom, husband, or boss. 

When you’re confronted with fresh (or old) evidence that you don’t measure up, what do you do? Where do you turn? Do you fall into one comparison trap after another? Are you tired of the endless jealousy, irritation, self-loathing, anxiety, and stress?

Jesus offers you another way. It’s not passive or easy, but it will lead to confidence, security, and peace. Are you ready to battle with comparison? 

Here are four questions to help you fight: 

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/GalinaZhigalova


1. How Am I Being Influenced by the Enemy?

The Bible makes it clear that you have an enemy who is hunting you down, trying to destroy your life (I Peter 5:8 and John 10:10), and one of his primary tactics is comparison. James wrote, “If you have bitter jealousy or selfish ambition in your hearts, don’t boast and be false to the truth; This is not the wisdom that comes from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic” (Jame 3:14-15, bold emphasis added). Did you catch that word "demonic"? 

Demons are Satan’s devoted minions and he deploys them to influence us with the wisdom from below. Look back at those bold emphasized words that describe this dark wisdom, and consider how they’re tied to comparison. 

Bitter jealousy is when I glance sideways and loathe the fact that you have more. 

Selfish ambition is when I glance sideways, wanting to prove that I’m the one with more. 

Both require measure-up comparison and are rooted—not in heaven’s wisdom, but—in this measure-up world. 

So the first step in doing battle with comparison is identifying the enemy you’re fighting—and it’s not your thighs, your skinny friend, or the neighbor who makes you feel dumb. Your enemy is the ruler of this dark world (Ephesians 6:12), and the question is, have you allowed yourself to be influenced by him?

What are you bitter about? Who are you jealous of? How are you motivated to promote yourself and get ahead? Rather than falling prey to your enemy, guard yourself by identifying and refusing his influence. 

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/fizkes

woman looking into glass store window, envy vs. jealousy

2. What Would Jesus Say?

You’re such a loser. 

You’ll never have a marriage like hers. 

You’ll never be as pretty as her. 

You’re a complete failure! 

Just look at your kids compared to hers. 

If you have thoughts like those, here’s what you can be sure of: They’re not from Jesus. 

Jesus doesn’t talk like that. He never said anything remotely like any of these things. 

Did you know we have a recording of Jesus? In my Bible, his exact words are denoted in red ink—exact quotes preserved from centuries past. Here are a few comparison statements he used repeatedly: "The greatest is the servant" (Matthew 23:11). "Whoever puts herself last will be first" (Matthew 20:16). "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled" (Matthew 23:12).

When I studied these upside-down comparisons of Jesus, I found that most often he used them not arbitrarily, but in response to someone who was comparing. The disciples were arguing about who was the greatest. The Pharisees were comparing themselves with sinners. The sick people were feeling like nobodies. And in response, Jesus used pithy last-will-be-first comparisons to show how differently things stack up in his kingdom. 

When you’re tempted to compare, choose to be influenced by the words of Jesus (get Comparison Girl: Lessons from Jesus on Me-Free Living in a Measure-Up World for a deeper study) and ask, how can I be the great one by serving? How can I humble myself and choose to go last? 

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/JGI/Jamie Grill

Woman looking in the mirror, getting dressed up

3. Am I Just Too Focused on Me?

There’s a key difference between these two influencers—our enemy and King Jesus. Satan entices you to focus on yourself, but Jesus invites you to focus on other people. 

I’m sure you think it would be harmful for a woman to think poorly of herself. But what if she can’t stop thinking about herself? That’s harmful, too. Think of the story about my friend who weighed less. As I replayed her comment, who was I obsessing over? Myself. 

The cry of the measure-up heart is to be lifted up and noticed and admired—and to avoid being thought less of or overlooked. Yet notice Jesus’s example. He didn’t lift himself up. He didn’t seek to be admired or noticed. He allowed himself to be falsely accused and endured the shame of hanging on a cross. Now, Jesus put himself last, but he didn’t put himself down—there’s a difference. He humbled himself so he could lift us up. 

When comparison comes knocking, ask, "Am I just too focused on me? How can I lift my eyes to all the other people in the world?" 

Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Margo Ovcharenko

Woman looking in the mirror

4. Who Can I Focus on Instead of Me?

When people compared, Jesus never replied, “Come follow me, and I’ll teach you to stop comparing.” He taught us how to start asking, “Who can I focus on instead of me?” 

This is what Jesus modeled. He was thinking of us when he humbled himself—first by taking on flesh, and then by dying in our place on the cross (Philippians 2:5-8). 

You can’t do both at the same time. You can’t lift someone up and lift yourself up at the same time. You also can’t bend down to serve, and try to posture at the same time. And you can’t put someone ahead and try to get ahead. 

If you’re ready to fight the comparison traps in your life, Jesus invites you to listen to him, not your enemy. Find Jesus’s confidence, peace, and security when you focus on others, not yourself. 

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/FG Trade

Shannon Popkin and Lee Nienhuis are co-authors of Comparison Girl For Teens: Thriving in a World that Measures and Compares, available wherever books are sold.

Originally published Wednesday, 15 May 2024.