Compared to Her by Sophie de Witt
A few years ago, Compared to Her was doing the rounds amongst some of my friends; many of them would read it together and discuss their struggles with comparing themselves to others as they went. I’ve been meaning to read it for a long time, so I am aware that I’m a little behind here. This is definitely one of those books that has sat on my shelf waiting to be read for a while now. Being someone who read a lot of Christian blogs, I’ve read a lot about contentment, but it is always a topic I am interested in finding out more about, so I’ve been enjoying getting to grips with this topic over the past few days.
Compared to Her is far from a long book and de Witt has made it very clear and easy for anyone to read. The whole book is laid out like a medical guide for any syndrome, covering the symptoms, triggers, outlook, cause, treatment, and healthy living options for Compulsive Comparison Syndrome (which she abbreviates for most of the book to CCS, a decision which was slightly jarring to me as a reader but which others have found a nice touch). The layout of the book is very clear and very helpful, particularly in the way it slowly digs under the surface of comparisons to show how this issue reveals our inherent rejection of God as ruler. It clearly lays out the bad news: how comparing yourself with others ultimately destroys our hope of relationship with God, before helpfully pointing us to Jesus to see the hope of salvation, security, and restoration we find in him.
Comparing themselves compulsively with others is an issue many women experience with the media always asking us to compare and set ourselves up in competition with each other, whether that is in regards to our looks, our relationships, or our careers. De Witt is really helpful in showing that this doesn’t just damage our relationships with each other (which is a clearly visible outcome), but that it also damages our relationship with God. As I was reading this, I was recognising that this is really true in my own life: the times when I am comparing myself to others are the times when I am putting myself at the centre. This always leads to me either feeling angry at God for what I don’t have, or continuing to live as though I don’t need him at all.
When we think of the issues surrounding comparisons and contentment, it’s easy to focus on the negative comparisons we make on a day to day basis, in which we look at others and see something that we want but don’t have. Amongst secular writing and social commentary, this is an issue that is mentioned again and again, with numerous self-help books and articles on the subject. It is something we have been aware of for a long time. The book deals well with this topic, pointing to how it is through the hope we have in Jesus that we can experience true security, satisfaction, and significance. However, the part I found most challenging was when de Witt turns her attention to the times in which we compare ourselves favourably with others and end up looking down on them. Her commentary on the way in which we look to the failings of others to reassure ourselves that we are doing well was thought-provoking and revealed a lot to me about my own sin in this area.
Overall, this was a helpful little book to read. Although it was really a ‘basics only’ book, I found that I still needed a lot of prayer as I went through, to repent and to ask God to help me focus more on him and less on myself. I would be interested to read a more in-depth book on this subject, but this was a helpful introduction; I found myself thinking particularly that I wished this book had been around when I was a teenager. This is definitely a book I would recommend.