Mint Editor’s Choice: Comparison is Not the Thief of Joy
Humans naturally compare ourselves to one another. It’s part of our wiring. In the olden days you had to compare yourself to others because resources were low, and it was survival of the fittest. You actually needed to be better than someone else in order to live.
Nowadays, resources are abundant (relatively speaking) and the way we compare ourselves is much different than before. We say things like Why aren’t we as skinny as them? Why is my hair shorter than hers? How do I get a car as big as his? Shouldn’t I be having just as much fun as they are? These comparisons seep into us in the worst way and our favorite form of killing time: social media, does not help.
A few days ago, I talked to one of my friends and told her it was time for me to do another social media break. As you all know, earlier this year I went a whole month and a half without social media. I was more productive, healthy, and slept well. But something I noticed was that I liked myself more. It was the most surprising part of the break, because I did not think that would happen. The reason I liked myself more was that I had less opportunities to compare myself. In real life, I have friends and coworkers who I admire and trust so much, I find that I don’t really compare myself to them. I’m smart enough to know that we are vastly different people and that where they are in their lives is not where I am in my life. It makes no sense to compare my apples to their oranges, simply put.
The reason it is easy for me to see that the people around me are in different places and it’s not productive to compare myself, is that I have context. When you are scrolling on social media and looking at these people with all your questions, you have no context. You don’t realize that their social media is a highlight reel, only telling you all the good things and even when they tell you failures, it is filtered. Which is okay! That is what social media is about and no one is a bad person for doing that. But when you say, ugh I wish I had their relationship, you do not know what is going on or if that picture is just that, a picture. You are simply filling in gaps for people and things that will never tell you if your assumption is right or wrong.
I compare myself like everyone else does. For me, it’s more about my art. I will think things like: Wow she is so talented, how do I get people to see my talent? Am I talented? Should I stop writing and be more realistic? I will also look around at everyone in relationships and think, Hmm, even though I do not want a relationship, is something wrong with me for not being in one? Why is everyone else in one? Is there something I am doing wrong? I hate to admit that I have these thoughts, but they are real!
What I’ve found is that comparison is natural to fall into and once you recognize it, it’s pretty natural to get yourself out of. Remember that you majority of the time do not have the full context of the story you are comparing yourself to. When you question yourself, like my questions above, you are telling yourself a story that may in fact be wrong.
Here is my advice, when you find yourself comparing in any regard, take a second and stop.
Recognize that comparison is usually an indicator of another feeling inside of you. What is that feeling? What do you think you are lacking when you compare yourself to another person? Once you answer that, ask, Why do I think I am lacking something? And finally, say: I am not lacking anything.
These steps may not cure your comparison right away, but it will allow you to turn inward. Everything we do says more about us then the people we are interacting with. So if you are comparing yourself to another, what are you saying about yourself? Every thought is not a thought that needs to be acknowledged, and once you realize that, you will realize it’s not comparison that is the thief of your joy, its you.