We all have a tendency to compare ourselves to others. It’s a human trait, hard-wired into our brains. But let’s face it, it can often lead to self-doubt, dissatisfaction, and a whole lot of unnecessary stress.
In this world where our social media feed reigns and life’s highlight reel is constantly on display, it’s easier than ever to fall into the comparison trap.
But here’s the thing – comparison, more often than not, steals your joy. It distracts you from your own accomplishments by putting the spotlight on someone else’s.
This practice can significantly impact your happiness and mental health.
This article aims to explore the ten reasons why comparison is the thief of joy.
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Who first said ‘Comparison is the Thief of Joy’
The quote “comparison is the thief of joy” comes from the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, in a speech he gave in Paris back in 1910.
In his speech, President Roosevelt likened the pursuit of success to a race, and pointed out how unhelpful it could be to compare ourselves with others.
This Teddy Roosevelt quote is a sentiment that has resonated throughout the decades, and it still rings true today, especially when social media, and the media in general, has made it easier than ever to compare ourselves with others.
10 Ways comparison is the thief of joy
1. It encourages unhealthy competition
Competition is part of human nature, and a healthy amount can be great for motivation and personal growth. I’ve always been a competitive person!
But too much competition, especially the kind based on comparison, breeds resentment and unhealthy competitiveness.
In some ways it can be quite destructive. People can become obsessed with being better than the person they are comparing themselves to, rather than focusing on their own goals and achievements.
2. It creates feelings of inferiority
The comparison game can often lead us to view others as benchmarks of success, thereby creating a feeling of not being enough.
While a little healthy competition can motivate us to improve, this constant comparison can actually make us lose sight of our own worth and achievements.
We often end up valuing ourselves based on how we stack up against others. This can lead to a downward spiral of negativity and self-doubt, causing us to undervalue our own accomplishments.
This sense of inadequacy not only robs us of joy, but also hampers our growth and self-esteem.
Picture running a race where the finish line keeps moving further away. You never get anywhere! It’s an unhealthy cycle of endless striving and dissatisfaction.
3. It leads to envy and jealousy
It’s hard not to feel jealous or envious when we see someone’s amazing travel stories on Instagram, or someone’s incredible weight loss journey, or someone else’s expensive brand new car.
The danger here is that the more you compare yourself to others, the more likely it will be for feelings of envy and jealousy to creep in.
This comparison-based envy results in a feeling of discontentment and bitterness, which can quickly steer us off the path of joy.
Jealousy and envy aren’t just toxic emotions, but they also prevent us from being happy in the moment. They take away our ability to appreciate the good things we already have in our own life.
Instead of looking at these people enviously, perhaps look at them as inspiration and use their stories to motivate yourself.
4. It’s a distraction from the present
All that time we spend comparing ourselves to others’ lives, that’s time we could be using to focus on our own goals.
Instead of striving for self-improvement, we are subconsciously distracted by the accomplishments of others. We become so enamored with other people’s successes, that it prevents us from creating our own.
The act of making comparisons can also take away our appreciation for the present moment. We can be so focused on what we don’t have, that we miss out on all the beauty of life.
5. It distils an unhealthy habits and mindsets
When we compare ourselves to others, it often leads to an unhealthy “all-or-nothing” mindset.
Have you ever been on a diet and had a piece of chocolate and thought, “well I’ve had one piece, I might as well keep going and have it all” or maybe you said, “I’ll just start again tomorrow”?
This is similar to how comparison can lead to unhealthy habits and negative feelings.
Comparison traps us into feeling inadequate that in turn fuel addictions such as alcohol, drugs or food, or unhealthy mindsets.
We believe that if we’re not as successful or talented as someone else, then there’s no point in trying. We give up and assume that we will never be good enough, so why even bother?
6. It can lead to low self-esteem
Comparing ourselves to others is a surefire way to knock our own self-esteem. I’m sure you’ve felt it before, as have I.
What may have started as harmless comparison, can quickly turn into negative thoughts with feelings of worthlessness and despair. We start to feel like we aren’t good enough, smart enough or talented enough.
We forget all the successes we have achieved, and instead focus on our shortcomings. We become overly critical of ourselves and forget how special each one of us is.
7. It sets unrealistic standards
One of the dangers of comparison is that it can lead to unrealistic standards.
We start to believe that everyone else has it all figured out and we should too. We compare ourselves to an idealised version of someone else, when in reality, they’re probably struggling with their own issues.
Nobody has the perfect life.
Those images you see on social media platforms don’t depict real lives. They may be filtered or show someone who, inside, is just as lost and confused as the rest of us.
The truth is that none of us have it completely figured out. We’re all just figuring it out as we go along, so this kind of social comparison does nobody any good.
8. It hinders growth
Comparing yourself to someone else not only stops you from seeing your own potential, but it can also hinder personal growth.
It’s difficult to try new things or explore opportunities that challenge us when we’re constantly comparing ourselves to others’ growth.
We talk ourselves out of taking risks because there are always people who seem better qualified or more experienced.
But these people were in your shoes once upon a time also, and these comparisons will never get us anywhere.
Growth requires courage and vulnerability, two attributes that are hard to come by when we’re constantly competing with others instead of ourselves.
9. It stifles gratitude
Comparison can also lead to a lack of gratitude for the things we do have.
We become so focused on what others have that we forget to appreciate our own successes and achievements.
It’s important to remember how much we’ve grown, both personally and professionally, and practice gratitude for all the hard work that’s gotten us this far. Looking back at where I was 5 years ago to where I am today absolutely amazes me! Do the same for yourself.
10. It varies in circumstances
Everyone’s journey is different, that’s what great about us. We’re unique! We all come from different backgrounds, experiences and circumstances.
Things that are easy for some people may be hard for others, and vice versa.
So when we’re comparing our progress to someone else’s, it’s often not an accurate comparison.
The best thing we can do is focus on ourselves and what works for us. This way, even if something is harder for us than it was for someone else, we can still make progress.
How to stop comparing yourself to others
Comparing ourselves to others can be a slippery slope, but it doesn’t have to be!
Here are some tips to help you break away from comparison and find contentment in your own self-worth:
Acknowledge the good things about yourself
Make a list of all the qualities that you appreciate about yourself. Think about the accomplishments that you’ve achieved and take pride in them.
Celebrate your progress
Take in every little victory, no matter how small it may seem.
You don’t have to wait until you’ve achieved something monumental to give yourself some credit and appreciation!
Connect with positive people
It’s so easy to get caught up in the comparison game if you’re surrounded by judgemental or critical people.
Make an effort to find and connect with people who are positive, encouraging and supportive. This will help you get out of the comparison trap and focus on improving yourself without competing against anyone else.
Set realistic expectations
Comparing ourselves to others can be a surefire way to set ourselves up for failure, because we tend to have unrealistic expectations about what we should be capable of doing.
Think realistically about your goals and find ways to break them down into smaller, more achievable tasks.
Live in the present
It’s easy to get caught up in the idea that everyone else is doing better than us, but this often isn’t the case.
Focus on living and enjoying life in the present moment, instead of feeling like you’re always chasing after something that other people have already achieved.
Celebrate others’ successes
When we get caught up in comparing ourselves to others, it’s easy to forget that other people are striving for success too.
Try to celebrate and encourage the people around you, rather than feeling competitive or envious of their successes.
No one is perfect – and that’s okay! Mistakes are an important part of personal growth, so try to embrace them instead of beating yourself up over them. Every mistake offers an opportunity to learn something new and try again.
Learning to accept and embrace our mistakes is an incredibly powerful way of taking control of our own lives, without relying on comparison or competition with others.
This can be a difficult process, but it’s one that will undoubtedly bring you more joy in the long run.
At the heart of it, it’s true that comparison is the thief of joy.
But there are plenty of ways to combat this feeling, by focusing on your true self and your own achievements.
Try to accept your mistakes and embrace them as learning opportunities. Appreciate the unique skills and qualities that you possess. Celebrate others’ successes instead of comparing yourself to them. And above all, live in the present moment rather than chasing after something you don’t have.
We’re all different, with unique talents and abilities. Our paths in life are all different, and that’s what makes them special.
Learn to appreciate your own journey, without feeling the need to compare it to anyone else’s, and feel yourself living a more happy life.