Rejecting false brokenness

Posted by Kenetha Stanton on

There is an incredible amount of brokenness in our world. Broken hearts and broken lives abound all around us.

And yet, we tend to heap a great deal of false brokenness onto that overwhelming pile, finding ourselves (and others) to be "broken" in places where no brokenness exists.

Invariably these forms of false brokenness stem from comparing ourselves to others or to cultural standards of who we "should" be. When we perceive ourselves to be falling short, we conclude that we must be inherently broken in some way.

This is false brokenness, and it is the outcome of the deadly game of comparison.

The comparison game

We start early at the comparison game.

Little children start with the comparison of things.

Is her toy better than my toy?

Is his piece of cake bigger than my piece of cake?

By our teen years, we've long since moved on to the comparison of our selves to others.

Am I as pretty as she is?

As talented as he is?

As smart as she is?

As witty as he is?

From there, it doesn't take much to slide right into the comparison of our selves to culturally accepted (and often fictional) standards.

Am I "normal" enough?

Am I suitably feminine (or masculine) enough?

Do I look the way the media says that I should look?

The point of the whole comparison game, of course, is the attempt to prove our own worth (to ourselves and to others) by comparing positively to those around us.

The problem is that for every time a comparison makes us feel good about ourselves and our lives, there are dozens that tell us that we don't measure up, aren't enough, and don't fit in.

As a result, we sink deeper and deeper into the false assumption that we are broken and inadequate.

The fallacy of comparison

There are two basic errors inherent in this comparison game that feed this false brokenness.

The first error is that we inevitably end up comparing our unedited, behind-the-scenes life to other people's highlight reels.

We are acutely aware not only of our own mistakes (even those we catch before anyone else sees them), but also of all of the uncharitable thoughts and feelings that appear in our inner worlds and are never acted upon. And we judge ourselves accordingly.

On the other hand, we tend to compare that to the best, most edited versions of other people's lives—the parts they show publicly in person or online, the personas they want the world to see.

(As a side note, many people blame this habit on social media, but humans have been engaging in this behavior of showing our best, most carefully crafted personas to those around us for much, much longer than social media has existed. Social media just increases the number of people we can observe and compare ourselves to on a daily basis.)

It's only to be expected that our behind-the-scenes reels don't look like others' highlight reels—any more than their behind-the-scenes reels look like our highlight reels. That is not a cause for considering ourselves to be broken.

The second error we make is the assumption that other people (or cultural standards) should even be a measure of our lives and our worth.

We were all created with a unique set of skills, gifts, and personality traits to march to a drum beat all our own.

We get so busy trying to march to the beat of this cacophony of other drummers that we find ourselves tripping over our own feet and struggling to keep our balance and conclude that we are broken and inadequate.

In reality, we are not broken at all. We're just using the wrong set of scales to compare the wrong things.

Correcting the scales

The most straightforward fix would be to drop the comparison game altogether, but most of us have this game so ingrained in us that quitting on a dime is impossible.

An easier way to start is to switch the scales and what you measure in them.

A better set of scales is comparing yourself to our best version of yourself according to those things that actually matter to you (and not to anyone else).

For example, I am an introvert. If I spend my time comparing myself to the extroverts our culture values, I constantly feel like I don't measure up and must be broken in some way because I don't function like that.

Once I embraced my introversion as a valued part of who I am, it has become much easier for me to structure my life in ways that honor this trait. This has allowed me to become a better version of myself because I'm honoring my needs in ways that accentuate my natural introverted strengths instead of comparing myself to someone I'm not.

My measure now is how well I'm doing in being my best introverted self and not a comparison to how I'm doing as an extrovert.

Once an appropriate set of measurements is established for your best self, the next correction to make is in what you measure. Even if you are only comparing your current reality to your best self, it's important to keep up the distinction between the behind-the-scenes reality to the highlight reel.

Comparing the grumpy, irritable chatter going on only in my head on my worst days to how I actually act on the outside on my best days is not a fair comparison.

A better comparison might be how that inner chatter has perhaps become a bit less caustic on my worst days or at how I've improved my ability to act in ways I don't regret on the outside even when that inner chatter is going strong.

Owning the scales

Perhaps most importantly, it's time for you to own your own scales and march to your own inner drum beat.

There will always be people who think you are not enough (or too much). That's never pleasant, but their comparison and judgment is not your problem unless you choose to take it on.

The only thing that really matters is your choice of how you measure yourself and what standards you use to make those measurements.

There's enough real brokenness in our world from loss and violence and abuse and trauma to keep us busy for a long, long time. There is no need to take on the weight of the false brokenness that stems from comparing ourselves to someone we are not.

Where have you fallen into the trap of thinking that parts of you are broken when they are really just different from the standard you are using for comparison? Where have you adopted other people's accusations of (false) brokenness as your own?

What new scales you ready to create and own as better models for who you really are?

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