Comparison is the thief of joy. We’ve all heard that line before. I think because we are humans, its kind of natural to look at other people in relation to ourselves. Sometimes we can compare different aspects of ourselves without even knowing it. We see someone driving a shiny, new BMW in the lane next to us and we ask ourselves “What do they do to afford something like that?” Or, we have a friend who is always wearing the newest fashion with a face beat to the gods, and we wonder “How is she ALWAYS on point? Like even on a Monday?!” Now, not all comparison is bad because I think it can lead to self-reflection and cause a shift within ourselves. But when comparison becomes a low-key obsession like it did for me, problems can arise. So, here’s what I’ve learned from feeding my habit of comparison.
Comparison is powerful.
I started my secret affair with comparison when I was around 15 years old. I allowed myself to relentlessly compare myself to friends, coworkers, associates, and even strangers. I would compare my own experiences to see if mine measured up to what everyone else had been through. I compared who I knew and who my friends knew. I compared the things I liked doing to what other people liked doing. Some days this habit would consume my entire thought process and leave me drained. I didn’t understand why I thought this way, but I did. Even when my daily dose of comparison left me feeling like shit, I would continue on with it the next day. It was all-consuming. I thought comparison was just a problem that would go away when I left high school, but it didn’t. It stayed with me as I turned 20 last year, so I knew it had power.
Comparison wasn’t solving my problems. It was creating them.
When I began to compare myself, the outcome would either end with me “winning” or “losing”. When I “won” and came out better than who I compared myself to, I felt a misplaced joy. It felt good to “be better” than someone else in something. I liked the idea that parts of my life appeared to be going better than some of the other people in my circle. Sometimes, the comparisons would give me a boost of confidence big enough to get me through the rest of my day. But whenever I “lost” and I came out worse than who I compared myself to, my whole sense of self would be rattled. I spent many nights questioning who I was and why my life wasn’t as great as the people around me. I wondered what was different about me that my life couldn’t look like theirs. I asked why I didn’t always have friends inviting me out to events or why my follower count wasn’t as high. Everyone looked so happy and, while I wasn’t depressed with my life, I wasn’t very excited about it either. I just could never shake the feeling that everyone else was having more fun than me and living a better life than I was. In the end, even after I “won”, I had created a lot of discontentment and ungratefulness in my life.
The grass isn’t always greener on the other side (I know, that was super cliche, but stay with me)
The very essence of comparison is to see if my own life stacked up to the competition. Whatever someone else had going on ALWAYS seemed more fun, more fulfilling, more comforting than what I had. Their “grass” was always lush, green and soft, while mine was barely surviving with tons of brown patches and weeds chocking the potential in some of the flowers that had started to sprout. However, I soon realized that the reason my grass didn’t look so appealing was because I was neglecting it. Some how I thought by obsessing over the beauty of someone else’s “yard” mine would begin to look more green because I willed it to be. By watering my “grass” and finding new ways to love it, nurture it, and care for it, plants began to grow. I started feeling way more grateful for what I had been blessed with. I felt a new sense of contentment I had never felt before. I stopped letting social media lie to me and make me feel low because I wasn’t experiencing what my friends were experiencing. I realized that if I cared for and focused on my own “grass” eventually flowers would begin to bloom.
In the end, I had to understand how I had let the habit of comparison grow and become a roadblock for me. Today I don’t find myself feeding my habit as much anymore because I’m now focused on trying to better myself and learn new things. Whenever I feel the urge to compare arise, I try to fight it with the truth that my life and journey is unique and can’t be compared. There’s room enough for everyone to shine, and just because someone else is excelling in one area, it doesn’t diminish my own light and potential to excel in the area carved out for me.