Theodore Roosevelt once wrote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
Turns out, Theodore knew exactly what he was talking about.
Comparing ourselves to others is like cancer to our minds. It can start off with a small invasion of thoughts and suddenly spreads like wildfire, attacking our sense of selves. I catch myself doing it every single day, whether I’m aware of it or not. I can be looking at another person subconsciously thinking they have a cuter outfit, nicer hair, newer car, better job, etc.
It's amazing how our minds can cultivate a split second judgment and use it as a catalyst to attacking our self-esteem and thinking we’re not good enough.
It has become a daily practice we do every single time we scroll through social media or turn on our televisions. We are exposed to people’s lives and are shown a version of their "reality" and then subconsciously compare our reality to theirs.
I’ve caught myself watching the Kardashians before wishing I had their closet of designer clothes and million dollar homes. I’ve scrolled through Instagram looking at pictures of people traveling the world and suddenly I am discontent with my current moment. It seems no matter where you turn there's always someone else looking fitter, healthier, or happier.
It isn't long before these negative thoughts turn into a downward spiral that comes with the act of constantly comparing ourselves to others. According to clinical director of the Light on Anxiety Treatment Center in Chicago, Debra Kissen, Ph.D., "Being bombarded by images of everyone looking happy and successful leads to unhealthy and inaccurate comparisons and decreased feelings of self-worth."
If only we could stop ourselves from making these side by side comparisons thinking that they add any truth or value to our life. Instead, they rob us of precious time and energy. We forget that every version of reality we present to the world always has a “behind the scenes.” No one is posting the picture of themselves when they don’t get out of bed all day, when they feel depressed or when they’re feeling bloated on their periods. We only show the good stuff.
It's not reality.Instead of comparing and wishing, we have to change our perspective from idealizing to humanizing. Yes, if I look at the lives of the Kardashians, I will never measure up. I don’t have their bank account, bodies, clothes, success, etc. But behind all the glitz and glamour, they are human beings who are not immune to problems and pain. Their lives have been interrupted by death, robberies, drug/alcohol addictions, divorce, scandal and loss. Their lives may seem so perfect but they’re not without problems.
Timing is another vital component that comes into play when we compare ourselves with others. We forget that although we are all on the same playing field, our timing and paths could not be more different.
Every single person has a different path, different story, different timing. It’s one of the biggest lessons I’m still trying to apply in my everyday life. Accepting the fact that everyone's life choices and version of happiness will be different than your own and THAT'S OK.
I have friends who never went to college and are still living in the same town we went to high school in. I have friends who are currently in college trying to land their degrees, both younger and older than I am. I have friends who are longing to be engaged or on the verge of marriage.
I have friends who are single and a relationship is least of their concerns. I have friends who are pregnant or well beyond their second kid. I have friends who never plan on having kids and their version of kids are dogs. I have friends who don't like dogs — just kidding, I'm not friends with those people.
We are all in our own lanes, striving towards different goals, no one path looks the same, and that's how it's supposed to be. I have to actively stop myself from looking at other people who are well into their careers and thriving and feel like I'm a failure because I'm not there yet. I have to stop admiring someone else's beauty and thinking that it in some way lowers my own. I have to stop swerving to focus on other people's lives and stay in my own lane.
Just because others may be excelling in one area that you are not, whether it be your love life, career, or health, doesn't diminish or tarnish your journey.
You are not falling behind, it's just not your time.
Instead of constantly comparing ourselves to others thinking we're missing something, we have to stay focused and be grateful. Compare yourself to the people who don’t know where their next meal is coming from or where they're sleeping tonight. Compare yourself to the people who have been hit by a major hurricane or earthquake losing everything. Compare yourself to the people who are battling a life-threatening illness, wishing they were healthy.
It’s so easy to look at our lives and constantly want more, never feeling satisfied when there are others who are comparing themselves to us, wishing they had what we take for granted.