Created to Create

by | Mar 21, 2024 | Featured, Life Advice, Wisdom

Comparison is the thief of happiness because it robs us of connection—connection to ourselves and connection to others. For me, the biggest trigger of comparison and competition is social media. We show up online to find connection or entertainment, but often we close the device because we feel worse than when we started. We look around and realize we don’t have what we want. We see other people experiencing everything we want to experience. Everyone seems happier than we are.

Engaging in creative outlets is proven to improve your brain function, mental health, and physical health. Have you ever noticed a difference in your mood when you do something as simple as listening to music while cleaning or cooking? Or when you were bored as a child, what did you do? When you had to sit in church or take a long car ride or listen to a teacher’s lecture, did you draw or doodle? I always did. I have many pages with my name written in bubble letters or with little drawings scattered along the margins. That’s creative work. These sorts of activities give our brains space to sort out our thoughts and feelings. Being creative taps into the very essence of being human. We are all creative beings.

The creation story in the Bible describes a creative God—just look at the description of all that was dreamed up and created: stars, water, night, day, vegetation. Reading that story paints a picture of artistry in our minds. If God is creative and we were made in his image, what does that say about us? We are created to create.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

(Genesis 1:1 NIV)

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; (Genesis 1:27 NIV)

Good news: this is not a one-size-fits-all scenario—you can do anything creative here. Activities like knitting, drawing, coloring, cooking, and writing are repetitive in nature and produce a visible result. And what happens when you see the result? Your brain is flooded with the feel-good chemical dopamine. When you feel dopamine, you feel more motivated. You feel happier.

So when you find yourself stuck in the comparison trap, take action. Do something creative. Journal about it. Paint something. Put on some music and dance. That creative motion will help you work yourself out of the trap.

While we would ideally avoid the comparison trap, fully avoiding it is unlikely. But we can be aware that it exists. And because we know it exists, we must be mindful of what triggers us, of the places or people that tend to draw us into the trap, and then avoid them as needed.

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:25-26)

Maybe that looks like taking a break from social media like I recently did. Or maybe it means setting a timer. Now that I’m back on social media, I can feel the lure of comparison. I once again find myself endlessly scrolling. So I recently set a time limit. After thirty minutes a day on Instagram, the app shuts off. This is a boundary that keeps me from falling into the soul-sucking comparison trap once again.

Maybe removing the app or setting time limits isn’t helpful for you. Let me give you one other suggestion. When you feel unhappy, go back to your photos stored on your phone. Scroll past the random pictures of receipts or parking spots (tell me I’m not the only one who forgets where she parks). Just look at all those pictures. Those pictures are of people and places that brought you happiness. No one takes photos and videos of life sucking. No one takes a photo of the tragic state of their pantry. No one wants to commemorate the stuff that makes them feel the worst. When you feel unhappy, go look at your phone’s photo library and smile. Feed yourself something other than what’s on social. Look at your photos—your life—instead of someone else’s.

And lastly, when we feel the urge to compare and compete, we need to learn to celebrate. Nothing kills comparison faster than celebration. The very act of celebrating someone else takes us out of our own heads, where comparison wants to keep us.

For decades, I have worked on cultivating celebration. I like to describe it as throwing confetti. Of my daughters, Rory is the one who has picked up on the same level of celebration. She loves a party. She will plan her birthday eight months in advance. And when she’s invited to parties, she is thoughtful about the presents she gives. When she was little, every party she attended, she positioned herself right next to the guest of honor. She would look at her friend and grin ear to ear. That’s the picture of celebrating that I have in my mind. When I see someone getting accolades for something they did, or getting the home they always dreamed of, or getting their book published, I want to be like Rory. I want to sit beside them and grin ear to ear. I want to throw confetti and celebrate the good they are experiencing—even if I’m not.

Nothing kills comparison faster than confetti.

So when you lay awake at night and wonder if everybody’s happier than you, remember that everyone is on their own journey. My friend Ashley always used to say, “That’s their journey.” Just because that’s their journey doesn’t mean it needs to be your journey. Just because their journey includes a vacation home doesn’t mean that should be your journey. Just because their journey includes raising kids doesn’t mean that should be your journey. Just because their journey includes striving for a particular something doesn’t mean that should be your journey.

Remember that you are doing what you are doing in life because you enjoy it. You were interested in it or you loved it. Your life, your family, your work—it’s all unique to you. It’s your creative expression.

So when you feel the urge to doom-scroll through your social feeds during those sleepless hours of the night, I challenge you to choose a better way.

Choose to drop the measuring stick.

Choose to cultivate creativity.

Choose to be compassionate toward yourself.

Choose to accept (and love!) the life you have.

And choose to throw a little confetti.

Sarah Bragg is a well-loved communicator and author; you can find her hosting the popular podcast Surviving Sarah. Her latest book is Is Everyone Happier Than Me?: An Honest Guide to the Questions that Keep You Up at Night.

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