Comparison is the Thief of Happiness

TRUTH, y’all! I don’t know about you, but I can be going along just fine, feeling pretty good about where I am and what I’ve accomplished when WHAM – something comes across my news feed, or I get a phone call or read an article about how someone else has done it better or has accomplished more. Ugh. Instant deflation.

Brené Brown quotes her friend, Laura Williams, in The Gifts of Imperfection. It’s the first time I remember hearing or reading, “Comparison is the thief of happiness.” I guess I never really gave it much thought. I realized, though, recently that we have ramped up the comparison culture just by the very nature of social media. Facebook is one of the worst. (sorry Facebook…) It’s where people put their stuff out there – their trophies, their beautiful lives, their skinny bodies, their successful businesses, their perfect children. And, even though I know most of us are super selective about what we choose to post, attempting to display our brightest and best, I STILL compare my “best” to others’.

I know I talk a lot about scarcity messages (not enough messages), and the truth is, they tend to pop up in all number of circumstances. But, I think they can be especially prevalent when we find ourselves in situations where we’re comparing ourselves, our work, our accomplishments to others’. The “I’m not as (smart, successful, attractive, whatever) as she/he is” messages are super powerful.

Comparison can suck the joy right out of our efforts and send us on a trail of self-doubt and criticism. “There goes that diet or new exercise regimen. What’s the point? I’ll never be as fit as ___.” Or, “why bother marketing a program somebody else has already done better?” Or, it can be as sly as messages that make life seem easier for some than for others. “___ always falls into the best situations/opportunities.” You get the point.

I’m working on a couple of projects right now that are testing both my commitment and my self-worth. I have moments where I feel totally motivated and in a groove, propelled forward and confident. Then I read or hear something that calls all of that into question. I feel the wheels start to loosen and my confidence get shaky. I look at what someone else has been able to do, something that feels more powerful and more productive than what I’ve accomplished, and I completely lose ground.

So, here’s the thing. I’m aware that I have to let go of comparison. My life is my life. Your life if yours. We’re all given the same 24 hours in a day, and while opportunity does sometimes strike more readily for some than for others, comparing how that happens or when it happens or trying to figure out why it happens is pointless. Comparing does nothing but trap us in a pattern of dissatisfaction and resentment. It really does steal the happiness right from us.

So, for me, one of the best antidotes for comparison is gratitude. When I find myself comparing my accomplishments to someone else’s, I have to stop and name something I’ve been able to accomplish and express gratitude for it. When I’m harsh on my body because I’ve seen one too many images of “perfection,” I have to stop and express gratitude to my imperfect yet supportive body. There’s something to be said for owning where and who we are and acknowledging with gratitude that which is ours alone, without holding it up against anyone or anything else. Therein lies our freedom – to create, to live, to work, to parent, to be – gratitude.

So, next time you’re tempted to compare yourself or your work or your parenting or whatever to that of someone else, remember to stop, and be grateful. Gratitude, I believe, is the pathway to joy and happiness.

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