Thoughts on comparison, value, and the true self.

Studies show that as Facebook (or any other social media outlet) usage increases, self esteem decreases—so much so that it even has a name: “Facebook depression.” To be fair, we can’t blame Mark Zuckerberg, because the problem is in how we’re using social media.

For many, social media subtly becomes a measuring stick for how they compare with the rest of their community. With that consideration, it’s inevitable that anxiety and depression follow.

Here’s why: most people present the fun, happy, pretty parts of their days, all covered in hash tags and applied with filters. We’re photo-shopping our own lives and we don’t even know it. There’s no judgment here—I do it all the time. I’d much prefer to post a picture of my child blowing out candles on his birthday cake than I would a post about a recent argument I’ve had with my husband. This is not a bad thing, either. The problem is that as we see each other through the social media lens, there’s a void left in the place of unspoken truths, and we are tempted to fill that void with our own imaginings.

“They have the perfect marriage. They never fight…and that’s all we do these days. Our marriage just isn’t working like it’s supposed to be.”

“They are going out for a girls’ night again, and I’m not invited. What is wrong with me?”

“Another happy family… and I’m still single. Really God?”

“He’s eating another great meal, while I’m reduced to ramen noodles for dinner. Typical.”

We compare our monotonous, humdrum or even dark, painful moments to our friends’ highlight reels and we’re left in a hurricane of inadequacy, feeling ashamed, not enough. Often, this feeling of “not enough” is linked with the belief that we aren’t acceptable, that we don’t belong. Follow that rabbit trail to the lie that love is conditional. Intellectually, we know this assertion is false—we can even argue against it.

Thus, we’re presented with a conundrum when we intellectually “believe” the truth, but live our lives according to these false suppositions. The gap is highlighted when we present parts of our selves we think will be liked, admired, or accepted because we want to belong. We want to be enough. We want to be loved. And so we try to earn our worth and prove our value.

If I lose ten pounds, he’ll be more attracted to me.

If I get a promotion, she’ll be impressed with me.

If I volunteer more…

If I work harder…

If I get enough likes…

But it’s never enough. Jesus invites us off the mental hamster wheel in these moments of self-doubt.

He has made us creatures of worth and value. We were not created to hide or pretend or pose. We were created to shine.

There is a truth inside of us that’s worthy of being told. The true story of our lives—of who we are—can’t be stifled. Try as it might, a chocolate chip cookie can’t become a raisin cookie; even if it does its best, it’s still made of chocolate chips. Truth eventually, always expresses itself, even after false advertising or wishful thinking.

In Donald Miller’s book Scary Close he writes, “Sometimes the story we’re telling the world isn’t half as endearing as the one that lives inside us.”

Truth.

Your feelings can be far from reality.

Your same sex attractions and temptations do not define your identity.

Your appearance does not tell the whole truth about who you are.

Your accomplishments do not equal your worth.

There is One who knows you and can speak to your value.

“Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are of more worth than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7).

He gives unconditional love that can’t be earned.

“But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

He designed you with care and intention.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth” (Psalm 139:13-15).

He delights in you.

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by his love; He will exult over you with loud singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

He calls you family.

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God; and such we are” (1 John 3:1).

When we believe the presentation of “truth” we see in our Facebook feed and in Instagram pictures, our eyes are playing tricks on us. The truth is we are looking at a mirage, an optical illusion caused by atmospheric conditions that present as reality.

Take what you see with a grain of salt, because it’s a cropped picture. If social media is adversely affecting you, log out and take a break. If you find yourself posting to impress others or yourself, ask Jesus to help you remember that you are abundantly, plentifully enough.

Consider what Donald Miller also writes in Scary Close, “I’d have to trust that my flaws were the ways through which I would receive grace. We don’t think of our flaws as the glue that binds us to the people we love, but they are. Grace only sticks to our imperfections. Those who can’t accept their imperfections can’t accept grace either.”

We aren’t perfect. We are broken and so often succumb to temptation whether it’s pride or lust or comparison. Striving doesn’t get us to a better place, either.

However, Christ takes on the role of perfection for us. We can accept His perfection as our own; in fact, it’s what God the Father asks us to do. Tim Keller once tweeted, “God sees us as we are, loves us as we are, and accepts us as we are. But by His grace, He does not leave us as we are.”

God sees the real you and delights in what He sees. But wait—there’s more.

Because of God’s great love for you, He won’t just let you be and He won’t leave you where you are. He will take the broken parts and restore them to wholeness. He will take the dirty parts and clean them. If you allow Him, He will transform you into His image. This is our reconciliation to Him and our redemption in Him. This is the story of grace.

If you find yourself turning to Facebook for the intimacy and identity you need, turn instead toward the loving face of Christ, the One who made you, the One whose face is turned toward you, the One who is looking upon you with great love.

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Michael
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Michelle,

I just read the November newsletter and am so grateful for your article. It was wonderful, and true, and so needed.

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