Some people say,
“Comparison is the thief of joy”
And while I typically agree and find that sentiment to be helpful when I’m feeling inadequate compared to others, I’ve started to feel differently about that quote. As many things, “comparison” tends to be a subjective experience where you note similarities and differences between things. Where I begin to struggle with the “joy thief” idea is when you consider that not all comparison needs to highlight negative qualities.
I all too often compare myself to my sister or best friends and only focus on the things they have that I don’t and then I dwell on my inadequacies and basically do nothing to change my situation. I highlight my negative qualities while comparing it to someone else’s MVP highlight reel.
Why have I never taken the opportunity to recognize that people I compare myself to simply have different experiences and accomplishments than myself?
Why have I not considered allowing those comparisons to present an opportunity for conversation, where I can seek the wisdom and insight another person has to allow myself to learn from others and be open to sharing lessons they learned from those experiences?
Comparison isn’t always a thief. Comparison could very well be the perfect opportunity to talk, connect, learn, and grow with another person who has experienced a life path differing from my own.
Let’s get a little specific here, maybe not with the people in my life, but with the current “comparison challenges” I face on a mostly regular basis…
I think anyone of a certain age range (that super cool time frame after high school, but before you’re a “real” adult in your 30s) can relate to those moments when you flip through your various social media channels and see post after post of engagements, house purchases, pregnancies, gender reveals (don’t get me even STARTED on this rant, it could go on for days), beautiful photos of a vacation, weddings, someone purchasing a car, the list goes on.
It’s SO HARD not to see those things and just bounce it right back as a reflection of self. You see someone’s ring selfie, and instead of recognizing a beautiful moment where two people are ready to prepare for committing their lives to one another you sit back and overanalyze your own relationship status or lack thereof. Only until after I got married have I personally been able to look at other people’s engagements/marriages/relationships with the same love and joy I feel about my own.
It’s SO EASY to take the precious things you have in your life for granted when all we seem to do is compare compare compare and wonder “why is nothing in my life as great as the what everyone else on my newsfeed seems to have?!”
I have to admit, a big part of that self-inflicted pain cycle has contributed to my recent step away from a variety of social media I would otherwise love to share my life on. I’m only at the tail end of a chapter of my life where so much of my mental space was dedicated to being jealous or envious of what others posted and wonder why I don’t have anything post worthy. (And I mean, let’s be real here – I have a dog. That in itself is worthy of like 5-10 pictures a day!) Only recently have I been able to get myself OUT of those shoes and try on a pair that has allowed me to view my life in measurements of all the wonderful, beautiful, and even not so beautiful challenges that have been bestowed upon me. Strangely, it’s almost like I’ve been able to see my own life as the truly awesome gift that it is for the first time.
Now don’t get me wrong – I continue to struggle to see it that way always. But I’m beginning to get a lot better at even simply recognizing the things in my life that I have.
To bring this blog post full circle, I’m even beginning to realize that I should help people to compare themselves to me more often. Not in a way to give myself some inflated ego or the feeling of being someone’s object of envy, but instead to make it more relatable. Jealousy, I think, is a useful tool in moderation – just like comparison.
So today, dear reader, maybe take the chance to notice a comparison between yourself and someone close to you in life and why not strike up a conversation about it? Whatever comes to mind to talk about, just ask politely. I think you’ll find that it’s a lot easier for that moment of envious comparison to become a moment to connect and learn with someone. All those things you hold in high esteem, whether they be accomplishments, purchases, moments, or whatever, will seem a lot more attainable after talking to someone who already has them.