Comparing Kills Joy
“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt
“Comparison is the death of joy.” – Mark Twain
I agree with Theo and Mark on this one… comparison is the thief and the death of joy. Happiness, satisfaction is found when you stop comparing yourself to other people.
Why is it that sometimes life can be clicking along, everything going just fine, we’re feeling good about our lives and what we have accomplished… and then we log onto Facebook and BAM! – we think we suck again! We see someone else that has outdone us – in our minds. Any time you go to compare your life with people on some social media platform… you are going to lose.
It’s human nature though – it is so natural for us to do. It’s just how we are wired. We are trained to do this. In fact we train our children from an early age to think this way as well… look at how well this other child is acting. Look at the good grades your brother or sister is getting. Then we progress to… look at the car your friends just bought, look at the size of their home, look at those models’ bodies… how do you compare?
We all do it and we all need to stop doing it. Stop comparing your life to other people’s. You will always lose! You will always find reasons to doubt yourself and be disappointed. There is always someone that is skinnier, taller, smarter, more fit, craftier, richer, faster, prettier… whatever. You name it and you can find someone that excels in any area of your life.
We are generally not fair with ourselves when we do these types of comparisons. We take the worst image that we can muster of ourself and compare it to what we can assume is someone else at their very finest all the time. I can’t cook, but yet my friend posts pictures of these amazing pictures of delicious meals every day. I can’t fix anything and my friend posts pictures of his ’57 Chevy he just got done restoring. I have been working out for 4 months and have gained weight, yet my friend goes to the gym for 20 minutes, glistens with sweat, and drops 5 pounds. The examples could go on and on for days.
Not only are we not fair to ourselves in these comparisons, but comparisons in and of themselves, of this nature, are foolish. We are measuring ourselves against someone else without even a fair metric to measure by. You can’t rate or score someone else and their success and then fairly compare yourself to them or hold yourself up to any accurate form of measurement especially in ways that we compare one another online.
This is destructive and disabling.
Don’t Compare Moments in Time
We make the mistake of comparing moments in time as well. We see the byproduct of a picture that took 25 takes and a family that hated each other by the time they were done, but the end result is a perfect family picture. We don’t see 10 years of hard work someone had to put in for that addition to the house or that big family vacation that they now proudly display for all to see. At that moment when I looked at their profile, I saw someone else having a better moment in time than I was having that day.
I forget where I saw it, but someone in essence said to, “Stop comparing your ‘behind the scenes’ reality with everyone else’s highlight reels.” You know your reality, but you generally only see the highlight reels of your “friends.” Not a fair comparison.
We tell ourselves that we are failing, even if we are actually doing quite well in most areas of our lives – probably doing well in the important areas, at the very least. We aren’t able to enjoy our successes, because they are held up in comparison to someone else’s. You might say, “But, my friend has the job I want, they are married, they have the perfect kids, their spouse makes a lot of money, they have…”
- You will always have a friend with a perfect family picture.
- You will always have a friend with a bigger, better, cleaner, decorated nicer house.
- You will always have a friend that spends more time in the gym than you and you can see the difference.
- You will always have a friend that takes cooler vacations.
- You will always have a friend with more money than you, nicer cars, faster boats.
- You will always have a friend that can make the stuff you see on Pinterest and can only dream of making.
- You will always have a friend who appears to be in a better relationship than you feel you are.
We start to feel bad, because we wonder…
What’s wrong with me?
- Why don’t I eat awesome gourmet food everyday like my friends?
- Why doesn’t my family look so nice in all of our pictures like my friends’ families do?
- Why don’t I have as many friends that hang out and do cool things together and then post pictures like <so and so>?
- Why don’t my pictures and posts get as many likes and shares as everyone else?
- Why do my kids seem so crazy compared to <name a friend with perfect kids – like they exist>?
- Why don’t I have a more interesting life that I could take pictures of every day to share with 1,000,000 followers?
There will always be someone or something that we can compare ourselves to and lose!
“It doesn’t matter what others are doing – it matters what you are doing!”
Don’t Compare – Appreciate
I think one way to monster this comparison beast is to appreciate. When you see someone post something that might normally make you a little bit jealous or down on yourself – post a nice note or a compliment. The more you appreciate and show gratitude toward someone else and show sincere happiness for them and their accomplishments and successes, the less you will have time to focus on the fact that you aren’t them at that moment of their perceived perfection.
Comparisons often result in resentment – unmerited resentment towards others and resentment towards ourselves. It’s hard to have your joy taken from you when you are appreciating the good in someone else’s life. You will also be more thankful for what you already have, and the person you are, and what you are doing. Show appreciation – show gratitude.
This act of appreciating will also help give us the right perspective. It reminds us of all the good we already have in our lives. When we hop online and see someone else posting something positive about themselves, we allow it to steal our joy and it makes us focus on that one area where maybe they are actually better than us, out of thousands of possible areas where maybe we are doing quite well.
You are winning at something – I guarantee it. I like this quote from Will Smith about this subject… “You might have more talent than me, you might be smarter than me, you might be sexier than me, you might be all of those things – you got it on me in nine categories. But if we get on the treadmill together, there are two things: You’re getting off first, or I’m going to die. It’s really that simple, right?”
You are winning! Stop comparing or you will lose!
I imagine that the people you are comparing yourself to are also insecure about something in their own lives. I am sure that they, although they look perfect online, probably are not-so perfect in many other areas of their lives. We all know that the life we preset on social media is all the best usually anyway, right?
It’s ok, and I think helpful, to remember that nobody is perfect. Don’t use that knowledge in a way that is vindictive or prideful though, but remember that no one is perfect. No one! No one lives a life free from stress, pain, anxiety of some sort, confusion, or doubt. We all have imperfections – we just don’t always see them online. Remember that no one is perfect and there’s a pretty good chance that your “friend” online could probably use some encouragement, too. They probably envy some part of your life. Encourage them – appreciate them – show gratitude.
So, what should we compare our lives to then?
Compare Your Life to Your Potential
How do you really even compare yourself to someone else? How would you even begin to measure the differences? We are all such unique, interesting, beautiful individuals. Brenda Ueland said it this way. She said, “…since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of time, you are incomparable.”
“When you focus your attention on who you aren’t by comparing yourself with someone else, you lose sight of who you need to become.”
I believe we should spend more time if anything, comparing ourselves to our greatest potential. Compare your life to your own highest standards. And this isn’t an exercise to further depress us or keep us down. We don’t want to focus on our failures and shortcomings. This is an exercise to encourage growth. Set goals, track your accomplishments, journal – keep track of your growth – feel good about your own accomplishments and what you have succeeded in.
This isn’t an effort either to make you feel superior to anyone else once you do succeed. Someone once said, “The only person you should try to be better than is the person you were yesterday.”
“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” – Ernest Hemingway
Look at yourself. Look at your own life. Push yourself to be better – a better you!
All comparisons are not bad when we keep them in the proper perspective. It is good to have another viewpoint, a measuring stick with which to gauge our successes. I think it is good for us to be pushed to do better. Comparing our lives with other’s highlight reels though, is foolishness. But finding inspiration and learning from others is true wisdom. Work hard to learn the difference between the two.
“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.” – Judy Garland
Compare Your Life to Christ
If you want a standard to hold your life up to, forget your online friends – choose Christ.
You’re going to lose going head to head with Him, because He was perfect as a man on Earth. But, again – don’t let that get you down, let it motivate you to do better. When you compare your life to Jesus – you always lose, but you also win. We aren’t perfect. Christ was perfect, He wins that one. But, we can be justified, made righteous, because of His perfection – so we win, too!
Do the same thing we discussed earlier – show appreciation and gratitude toward Christ and emulate His characteristics. He is our highest goal – strive to reach Him. Be a better you as you strive to be like Christ!
Maybe you do have areas that you should improve in your own life, I know I have plenty of them. Don’t compare yourself to others especially at a moment in time when they are showing nothing but their best. Be the best you. Don’t be the best someone else. Don’t look back at failures in your own life either – look ahead! Press on and improve.
Stop these destructive comparisons with other people. Focus on you, focus on Christ! Intentionally, purposefully work on you and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Look at your successes and focus on those. Comparisons with other people only distract us from having true happiness and fulfillment in our own lives.
BE THE BEST YOU!