“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Teddy Roosevelt
It appears like a monster – following us through our day, whispering in our ear that we are not enough; that we will never be enough. Lurking behind every corner, the monster peaks out at us when we least expect it – when we feel like we are finally forging ahead, gaining ground, building our dream. It is in these moments that comparison looks us in the eye and says, “No, you are wrong, you will never be like them.”
That is how comparison is the thief of joy.
Once we let comparison into our lives, it can take hold forever, never relenting in its mission to steal from us the experiences that should bring us peace and calm.
Humans have always struggled with the act of comparison. The nicer things, the better situation, the greener grass – comparison has the power to diminish what we have in favor of that for which we long.
When my franchise retail business was growing, I was busy and undistracted by what others were doing. I seized opportunities to observe, in order to gain knowledge and pull tidbits and ideas that could be implemented to the advantage of my business, but overall, I was content with my progress. However, once my business life began to crumble, and even more so once it sat in complete ruins at my feet, the comparison monster showed up in full force.
No longer able to see the perceived success of others as inspirational, I began to slide into a dark place of jealousy every time I saw another celebrating an accomplishment or success of any kind. “Why did she have a best-selling book, a sold-out speaking tour, or a blog with thousands of followers? Her business life was no longer than mine in years of service. Her story was no richer in its twists and turns. And yet there she was, celebrating her success with a megawatt smile.” Or so it seemed to me.
When any life-altering experience unfolds, our emotions can run the gamut from joy to despair. The emotions swirling around my experience were no different. From the onset, I found myself in disbelief (that everything was crumbling around me), then hit by a keen sense of reality (as the business unwound), eventually succumbing to full acceptance (as I locked the door that final day), and then finally to relief and rest. As such, when I first began to observe the ugly feelings of discontent and jealousy rise within me, I knew this was not a place in which I wanted to dwell.
Comparison truly is the “thief of joy,” and what a waste this trial in life would be if I let the circumstances steal my joy by looking at what others had and letting that define who I was and where I was.
I distinctly remember the moment I decided I would no longer feed this monster. I made the choice to think differently, starting with three practical ways to bid farewell to comparison and invite contentment back into my life.
Below are some practical tools I employed to starve jealousy and push comparison away:
- Remove distractions. My first order of business was deleting Facebook. By deleting the trigger, I helped ensure that the perceived success of others was no longer six inches from my face. Being beholden to a virtual environment that enables your insecurities by giving you faulty information is simply unhealthy, and the longer you allow those distractions to infiltrate your life, the more rooted the jealousy will become.
- Confront comparison head on. A friend once told me, “Don’t believe everything you think.” We talk to ourselves all day long, and sometimes we simply need to get out of our own heads. Telling someone else about our struggle, and asking them to help hold us accountable by keeping life in perspective, and challenging us when it gets out of perspective, is a strong tool we can use to weed out comparison at the roots.
- Practice gratefulness. Write down where you have been. Write down where you are going. Acknowledge your blessings, one by one. Invest in others around you. Give when you can give. Go for a walk and give thanks for the fresh air, for life, for time, for family. Own your story as yours, and revel in the sweet satisfaction that each of us is running our own race, and the path and training program may look different for everybody. Practice gratefulness, and ultimately being grateful will come easily.