“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt
I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time comparing myself to others. Its something I’ve struggled with my entire life. I blame my competitive nature.
I was raised in sports and competition. Growing up, I was seldom alone and always with cousins and friends. Playing ball was just what we did. If the weather was bad outside, we played sports games on our Nintendos and set up tournaments. It was either win or face the embarrassment and indignity that came with losing.
Life was a competition and, man, I hated losing more than anything. I had a burning desire to compete and win.
Now an adult (sort of) in my 30’s, this competitive fire still burns inside me, although somewhat subdued. My competitiveness now manifests itself at the most inopportune times, e.g. church league softball games, backyard volleyball games with the in-laws or playing Xbox with my son.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I lost a family game of Monopoly in dramatic fashion and angrily tossed a colorful wad of fake money into the air that came raining down on me like ironic confetti as I hung my head in defeat. My wife’s uncontrollable laughter echoed a soundtrack of humiliation as I made my walk of shame out of the room. I still hate to lose.
Through the years, I’ve noticed that my competitive nature detrimentally leads me to compare myself to others, like I’m scouting an opponent or something. It happens so naturally that, sometimes, I don’t even know I’m doing it. I have to consciously make myself aware of it to stop it.
Fortunately, awareness is the greatest agent for change. Speaking from experience, comparing yourself to other people is corrosive and can absolutely sabotage you. It leads to bitterness, jealousy, anxiety, depression and a whole host of other damaging effects.
Social media: Fuel for the fire
Social media can be intoxicating. Its an incredible tool when used correctly. However, when it comes to self-comparison, social media is like tossing gasoline on a fire.
The social media platforms that are so prevalent in our lives these days have made it extremely easy to compare our lives to the lives of others. What do we habitually do when we have a minute to ourselves? We pull out our phones and scroll through social media.
In mere seconds, we are bombarded with filter-laden selfies captioned with Googled motivational quotes. Hashtags like #blessed and #livingmybestlife nauseatingly highlight the trends.
“Wow, they get to travel all the time. Must be nice.”, “They just bought a new car. They gotta be doing something right.”, “She’s so thin, why can’t I look like that?”. These are just a few examples of the things we tell ourselves as we scroll through the abundant hypocrisy cluttering our Facebook timelines. Boundaries have all but disappeared.
Virtual attention seekers infiltrate our brains every single day. It’s no wonder we get down on ourselves. Is it just me, or was life better before social media?
Consider a detox
On social media, we only see the highlights. We don’t see the daily struggles that these “likes” solicitors endure. If you knew what their lives were really like, chances are you wouldn’t be envious.
Unfortunately, we compare our worst to another’s best. This only cultivates feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, and envy. If you often find yourself in a negative frame of mind after spending time on social media, a detox is needed.
In fact, a complete social media detox is one of the most beneficial and freeing things you can do. Recently, I cut social media out of my life for just a week and the results were astounding. The lingering black cloud that had always been hanging in my peripherals seemingly disappeared. My bad mood vanished, and I became upbeat and optimistic. My entire life improved.
Comparison is only human nature, but there’s literally no benefit in comparing yourself to others. All it does is steal joy from your life.
To compare yourself with another is to take away what makes you you. You are unique. Your gifts and talents can never be properly compared to another’s. Your time is too precious to be wasted focusing on the lives of others. Embrace your individuality, sharpen your strengths and be thankful for what you have.
Instead of concentrating on your neighbor’s yard, water your own grass and watch your life change.