Comparison is the Thief of Joy
"Comparison is the thief of joy." --Theodore Roosevelt
Few habits can make us feel as stuck and miserable as comparing ourselves to others. So why do people do it so often? Perhaps it's so tempting to do because comparison gives the illusion that it will motivate us to improve, or to move towards a goal. So many of the people I work with struggle with it, and like quicksand, the action in this area just sinks them more. So let's tackle a few of the reasons why Comparison is really the worst kind of "frenemy", pretending to be a helpful companion while passive-aggressively undermining confidence, talking behind your back, trying to steal your boyfriend, one-upping you, and/or trying to wear your new outfit better than you.
*Comparison is a lie that rests on the assumption that happiness is a zero-sum game: that there's only so much to go around, and if someone else has more, you must have less. But the opposite is true: an "abundance mindset" knows that there's plenty to go around, the more we celebrate others' joy the more we have ourselves (and vice versa), that the more fishes and loaves get shared the more seem to magically appear in the basket.
*Comparison is just another form of "should-ing" on ourselves. It's normal to have wishes and goals and desires, but comparison is a way of beating ourselves up because we don't have them already. We humans are pretty crafty at coming up with ways of shaming ourselves, and comparison is one of the most effective tools. Shame deflates our morale and keeps us stuck. Maybe it's your comfort zone-- maybe you've spent your whole life being "should-ed" on. But it's not working for you, is it?
* Comparison diminishes our own humanity and the humanity of the person we're comparing ourselves to. It takes these amazing, complicated, mysterious, beautiful beings and reduces both to one or two measurable elements. Even when we're "winning" the comparison, we're diminishing our soul by playing the game. One of my first counseling clients was the envy of others for many reasons (beauty, intelligence, popularity, wealth, etc.). She was miserable, though, because few people really saw her rather than just seeing a standard-bearer to compare themselves to. And she was surrounded by miserable people who disliked themselves enough to imagine a quiet "competition" with her. It was lonely for all involved.
*There's no finish line. If you live in a comparison/competition mindset, there will always be another person who's got it better, another reason to beat up on yourself. Put another way: The minute you enter the competition ring, you've already lost the match.
*Comparison rests on the underlying idea that we aren't yet "enough", that we have to earn our worth. But that's just a lie. Perhaps it is in celebrating our own uniqueness, and practicing self- (and other-) compassion, that we are fully able to blossom into the beauty that is already present in the bud.
Maybe you grew up being compared to others. (I'm so sorry if you did). Perhaps you discovered this unique self-torture habit on your own. But it's time to let it go. Comparison is keeping you stuck. It's time to politely but firmly ask this particular frenemy with the fake smile to leave the party, and usher Comparison out the door. Abundance and Compassion can stay at this party, as can Joy. There's plenty to go around.