“Nothing will quench your joy faster than comparing yourself to someone else”
Seeing others enjoy something we don’t have often leads to comparison. And comparing often leads to negative emotional states; like jealousy, anxiety, loneliness, and fear. We simply can’t experience joy alongside these negative emotions. Comparing will devour all your joy and leave you left feeling empty, lonely and never good enough.
I think it’s fair to say that all of us experience comparison to one degree or another. There have been times (many to be honest) I’ve found myself comparing my life to others. What they can do and what I can’t. How easy something is for them and how hard it seems for me. It’s a futile circle of negative thinking.
Here are a few ways comparison ruins joy:
The world becomes a measuring stick: We start to see the world and ourselves as a measuring stick. If someone’s life looks more broken than ours, we take out our measuring stick to feel more confident that we’re better. If someone has something we want, we take out our measuring stick to cut down their size. Life doesn’t have to be a measuring stick–only their to make you feel behind or ahead.
We develop unrealistic expectations. The expectation is that we can be the person that someone else is or was, whether that is an intellectual, physical, emotional, spiritual, or social ability. This is simply not reality. Our expectations shape our reality. And when our expectations don’t align with reality, we’re likely left with feelings of disappointment and resentment.
As a horticulturist, one of my favorite quotes is about the grass on the other side.
“The grass is always greener on the other side until you get there and realize it’s because of all the manure.”
We want what someone else has until we have it, then we don’t, and then we want something new.
Comparison distracts you from your own unique purpose: We all have our own unique abilities, talents, and gifts. Comparing ourselves to others takes our time, energy and resources away from crafting the unique person we’re created to be. How can you focus improving your strengths and gifts if you’re always looking at someone else’s?
It skews your perception of the truth: Our perception of reality is widely rooted by sight. It is our opinions and beliefs formed by our surroundings that dictate what our reaction will be. It’s easy to feel defeated on social media, we see images of beauty and perfection and think it to be the complete truth. We take a single image of someone participating in a fun activity and assume that is what they’re doing all the time. As if they never have a bad moment.
One of my favorite vignettes of misguided perception plays out in this story.
A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the laundry outside. “That laundry is not very clean”, she said. “She doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.” Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her washing to dry, the young woman would make the same comments.
Some time later, the woman was surprised to see clean laundry on the line and said to her husband, “Look, she has learned how to wash correctly, I wonder who taught her this!”
The husband said, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”
Your perception is only as clear as the window through which you see. And I’m sure, all of our windows are flawed. Tweet that
If you’re breathing, you’ve likely experienced comparison stealing your joy. Comparing can become an ingrained habit over time.
To start exchanging comparison for joy, consider the following actions.
These are a few actions I’ve implemented along the way to keep comparison in check.
Become Aware: Most often we are doing this unconsciously. Become aware and immediately. Talk to yourself like you’d talk to your best friend. Remind yourself to stop. It takes more mental energy and focus in the beginning but it will get easier with time.
Change your perspective: Often, our perspective may not be reality. Consider another view of the situation, a positive one. Appreciate where you are now. Comparison almost always comes from a place of fear and insecurity.
Express gratitude: Re-direct your heart toward gratitude. Think about what you can be grateful for in your life. Write down what you are grateful for. Share your gratitude for someone with them, daily.
Give more: There are people all around us who have less, whose needs aren’t met. When we focus on giving more, we spend less time thinking about the next best thing we want. What would our (my) comparing tendencies look like if we spent more of our time helping people in need, in shelters, orphanages, poverty stricken countries and even our neighbor next door?
Look forward: Don’t spend too much time wallowing in regret. Don’t revisit the past over and over, and over. Living in the past is always a trap.
One day while we were driving, my daughter asked why the rearview mirror in the car was so small. I explained the mirror is so small because I’m not supposed to be spending too much time looking behind me while I’m driving forward. Just like our lives, we can’t keep our eyes fixed on the past if we want to move forward.
In order to offer our love, talents, gifts, and contributions to those around us, we need to do our own best. See your own strengths and unique value. Your unique value can’t be measured — it just is.
What are some ways you’ve compared your circumstances to others? Try writing them down to bring self-awareness. Set goals for yourself and make positive changes. Celebrate your small successes and keep moving forward.