I think the quote goes something like, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I can only speak for myself, but I can bet that I am not the only one that doesn’t think of my joy being stolen when I say, “Omg I wish I had your hair,” or “Man, they just bought a house together and they’ve only been dating for a year? Lucky her.” I think of them as little innuendos throughout my day that are simple observances of the people around me. In actuality, these seemingly side comments are something much larger – they are ways that I physically show that I am discontent with my own life. But in reality, that is not the case. There are days when I love my own hair. And I love the little condo I bought a few years ago. But when I see my peers doing things or looking a way that I envy, all of a sudden it seems like my life isn’t enough.
This is a scary thought to have day after day without even realizing it.
Growing up with three little sisters, comparison should have been all of our middle names. As the oldest, I always thought my sisters were cuter than I was. The two middle girls were constantly putting themselves up against the other and struggling with being in the same activities and having a lot of the same friends. The little one wanted to be like her big sisters and grow up way faster than a child should have to. Now we all have grown up to be fully-functioning just fine adults and friends, but as a child (especially a female) it is a tough thing to have so many siblings to compare yourself to all day, every day.
As we get older, the comparisons only get worse. I think it becomes full-blown crazy in college. For those of us who chose to rush sororities, we know the nonstop measuring up that goes on among all the girls in the house. In academics, we know what it’s like to see the person next to you ace an exam that you studied for months for and still managed to fail. When it came to social lives, ours never seemed as active or fulfilling as our roommates. And then you graduate and the real world starts and the whole cycle starts over again in the workplace. After that the biggest comparison game starts to come into play – relationships, specifically marriages and babies.
It may always seem like our friends are ahead of us in their careers, living situations, and relationships, but I do not think that we oftentimes pause as we should to consider that everyone is in their own spot for a reason. I cannot name one person in my life that has the exact same journey as another. Where is the fun and individuality in life if we are always trying to mold our lives to be like our best friends, neighbors, or even strangers? As hypocritical as I can be of this statement sometimes, deep down I truly believe that most of the fun in life comes from not knowing what comes next or when it is going to come. There is no way to predict the future – all we can do is take steps in the direction we think we want to go, but be open to new possibilities along the way.
A beautiful thing happens when we let go of the comparison game and start to congratulate those around us for what they have and to be grateful for what we have, too. This is a simple example, but I took a boxing class with a friend last night and was thinking to myself that I never could have done that back in college. The only thing I would have been focused on during the class would have been if my body were as fit as hers, if I was working as hard as she was, or if the teacher thought I was doing a bad job. But last night, we had such a fun class together, worked really hard but laughed through the whole thing, and did all of the partner exercises together. And you know what? Not once did I resent her for punching harder than me or doing more reps than I did on certain exercises. Because it just doesn’t matter. I’ve been working really hard to focus my energy on the things that matter in this world and to quickly and gracefully let go of the things that do not. This doesn’t even give resentment, comparison, and sadness room to cultivate itself. Instead, it allows more room for joy, peace, and new experiences to help us grow even deeper within ourselves and in our relationships with those around us.
The older I get, the more I realize that when people are brought together through comparison, their entire relationship is a competition. It is one thing to admire somebody and to think that they inspire and help you to be a better person, and it is another to get close to somebody because you want to be them. My mom has always told me to surround myself with people that make me feel good about myself and to avoid those that make me feel worse. It’s a tricky line to cross between someone helping you grow (positive) and someone who (probably unknowingly) makes you feel like you can never measure up.
Over the last couple of years I have been very intentional about my group of friends and how I allocate my time among my boyfriend, family, friends, and co-workers. I am not afraid to say no anymore to people who I do not want to give my time to, and I do not hesitate to ask for more time with those who make me happy. I think that true balance is found when your relationships align with your beliefs and help you to not test yourself against another, but to internally challenge yourself to adopt positive characteristics of those you admire.
Thoughts? Do you struggle with comparison games? Any tips on how to combat it?