“Comparison is the thief of joy”
– attributed by the World Wide Web to President Theodore Roosevelt
Comparing yourself to others, whether you come out ahead or behind, robs you of many things, the most notable of which is joy.
There are many reasons for this. For one, when you compare yourself to others, you’re comparing the worst of you to the best of them. Others, whether it be face-to-face or on social media, tend to display the highlight reels of their lives, and whose messy real-life can compare to someone’s edited curation? Growing up, when we’d drive through a wealthy neighborhood admiring the beautiful homes, my mom would tell me, you never know what’s going on inside. Everyone has their struggles.
Each of us is fighting a hard battle. Have compassion for all, including yourself. The more compassionate you are to yourself, the more compassion you’ll be able to direct outward. Listen to the conversation you conduct in your head day in and day out. Would you tolerate anyone else speaking to you that way? Would you talk to others that way? Compassion, then, is the antithesis of comparison.
I’ve spent my life struggling with, studying, and overcoming what I’ve come to call Comparanoia™, the insidious desire or need to be like or unlike others. It shows up everywhere, in multiple disguises, and especially when you compare yourself to others, no one wins. You gain nothing and lose everything.
When you measure your accomplishments against someone else’s, you shift your focus outside of the one thing you have control of, yourself. Further, designating someone else as the measure of your own progress is like trying to hit a constantly moving target. Your success no longer has anything to do with your actions and accomplishments, and everything to do with another’s. Talk about setting yourself up for failure.
So how do you stop comparing yourself to others? The truth is, you can’t. Your thoughts come and go regardless of how you feel about them. Instead, change how you respond to these thoughts. The less you’re invested in the thoughts, the thoughts will let go of you.
When you find yourself comparing yourself to others, whether on social media or at your high school reunion, just accept the thought — you can’t control your thoughts, remember? — and feel where it lands in your body. Stay with that feeling until it dissipates. By staying with the feeling, rather than going down the rabbit hole of negative talk, you let go of it, and it lets go of you.
Be grateful. Remind yourself at least once daily of all the things you’re grateful for. When you are truly grateful, and happy with what you have, you feel no lack and are able to be happy and grateful for the success of others.
Be a student of others. In the movie The Pursuit of Happyness, the down-and-out protagonist Chris Gardner asks a man driving a Ferrari what he did for a living. He tells Chris that he’s a stockbroker, and subsequently meets with Chris to introduce him to the profession. Chris Gardner compared himself to others to learn from them. Rather than resent this man’s success, he modeled it.
Let go of the story of who you were supposed to become, and what you were supposed to have achieved by now. It’s just a story. And, it robs you of appreciating where you are. Let go of the story of who you were supposed to be, in order to become the person you were meant to be.
The only statistically valid comparison is a laboratory-controlled experiment in which one variable is manipulated at a time. When it comes to human beings, no two people are alike. There’s no one in this world who has the same combination of gifts, talents and life experiences that you have.
Celebrate who you are in all your unapologetic uniqueness. You are incomparable!