A guest post by Mollie Donghia of This Evergreen Home
Inside: Learn how comparison is the thief of joy and how to stop comparing yourself with others and simply enjoy your life.
It happens each time we turn on the tv, or take a scroll on our favorite social media app, or even visit a local coffee shop.
With over 7 billion people in the world, we have the opportunity to observe many other lives and glimpse into what makes them different and beautiful. It’s a wonderful chance to see how others live and see what makes them unique.
But if we’re not careful, this passive watching of others and seeing their talents, successes, beauty, careers, wealth, material possessions, and even marital status begins to flow into the inner workings of our minds.
We see who they are, what they have, and it seems pretty. So we start desiring that for ourselves, thinking that if only we had that career, item, or status, we’d be better off.
When we allow comparison to enter our lives, we subconsciously admit that what we have isn’t enough. We begin to believe that if we gained what others have, it would make us happier and more content.
I’ve been there. And can admit that nothing good comes out of this thought. Instead, our joy is sacrificed and our self-esteem is deflated.
Who Said ‘Comparison is the Thief of Joy’?
Before we get into why comparison robs us of joy and how to stop it, let’s look at where this quote originated from.
The commonly referenced quote ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ is often attributed to Theodore Roosevelt. However, upon doing some additional research, there doesn’t appear to be solid evidence linking the quote to him.
The first publication of the exact quote appears to be from Dr. Ray Cummings. Regardless of who originally said the quote, the idea that comparison is the killer of joy is something I’ve found to be true in my own life.
How Comparison Started Stealing My Joy
I remember a season of motherhood a few years ago where comparison began to seep into my daily life and was a constant reminder of what I didn’t have.
This began shortly after I started following a particular “lifestyle influencer” on social media.
From my observation, her kids seemed happy and were always dressed in the cutest designer clothes. She lived in a beautiful house and was constantly promoting cool items for kids and moms towards leading an active, thriving life.
Her Instagram photos were lovely. Her house looked spotless and tidy. And her hair always looked perfect.
The longer I followed her, the more stuff I thought I needed and the less I became content with what I had.
It took me months before I realized what was happening. Much of what I was consuming and trying to turn into my own lifestyle wasn’t healthy.
I was idealizing somebody else’s life because it looked prettier than mine. The innocent intrigue that I initially felt was taken over by comparison and a spirit of discontentment continued to grow within me.
When we allow comparison of others to dictate how we view our own lives, we enter into a disillusionment of reality that robs us of the joy we have right in front of us.
Comparison acts as a powerful force that compels us to desire more, as we consequently view ourselves as less. This is when I realized that comparison had become the thief of joy in my life.
The Connection Between Comparison and Expectations
When we start comparing ourselves with someone else, we may begin adjusting expectations in our own life.
Comparison can take us from being content to landing in a place where expectations are the thief of joy. This could be in either our expectations of others or ourselves.
As a new mom, I had ideas in my head of what motherhood should look like. When my reality didn’t match that, I felt like I was failing in a variety of ways.
What I really need to do was lower my expectations and shift my definition of what productivity looked like on a given day. Comparing didn’t help me in any way. It only made me feel worse.
Let’s take a look at how comparison is the thief of joy and then ways to stop it in our lives.
3 Ways That Comparison is the Thief of Joy
Looking back upon that season of life several years ago, I see how deeply rooted comparison can be and the ways that it sought to take away my own joy during that time.
Here are the ways that comparison is the thief of joy and negatively influences our lives.
1. We become discontent with what we have.
When we see what others have and notice its appeal, we begin to lose value for what we own since what others have might be newer, prettier, or better in some way.
Even though I owned enough material possessions and had many great opportunities going, the more I compared myself with others (particularly on social media) the greater my insecurity became and I was no longer feeling content.
If you’ve ever binge-watched HGTV shows, you know that your house can look sad and outdated afterward. Comparison doesn’t help you to love the home you have either. It fuels jealousy and makes you desire things that you don’t currently have, which makes us discontent.
2. We think we need more to make us happy.
When people accumulate a greater amount of things, it doesn’t end up making them happier. It actually adds stress, chaos, and leads to a continuous cycle of wanting more things.
What makes humans the happiest is enjoying relationships, being creative, feeling successful at a skill, and doing acts of service for others, for example.
Allow yourself to be filled up with those parts of life, and I guarantee you’ll feel more fulfilled and grateful. Remember that happiness is not found in stuff. It’s found in gratitude for what you have and in creating a life that aligns with your goals and values.
3. We become jealous.
When we compare our lives to somebody else’s, it causes us to idealize that life. We desire to be like them in some way and fantasize about what it would be like to have their life.
When this goal isn’t attained, we may begin feeling envious of that person. Instead of looking up to them as a role model or friend, we become jealous and may even become angry towards them while subconsciously feeling as though life isn’t fair.
Jealousy can be a powerful emotion that leaves a bitter sting of resentment, low self-esteem, and unrealistic expectations for ourselves. Comparison not only steals your joy, but it also replaces it with negative feelings towards others and life in general.
Jealousy is a thief of joy let’s look at ways to stop it.
How Do We Stop Allowing Comparison to Steal Our Joy?
When we realize where and how we tend to compare ourselves with others, we can then begin to take meaningful steps towards ending this cycle and learning to be content with what we have.
1. Determine the root of your comparison.
Think about what areas of your life you tend to compare yourself with others the most. Is it in your career, marriage, material resources, competency as a parent, wealth, or talents?
After you pinpoint the area(s), then think of how you can take a step away from the source of comparing yourself to someone else.
For me, this was taking a break from social media for a while so I could focus on my own life and not view someone else’s from behind a screen.
I regularly go through the accounts that I follow on social media. If they don’t bring me joy, I mute or even unfollow them.
Recognizing this has been a powerful step toward not comparing myself to others in unhealthy ways.
2. Do something to serve someone else.
I’ve found that when I turn my thoughts away from my own needs and desires, I am better able to compassionately bring happiness to others’ lives. Doing these acts of service not only blesses that person, but makes me feel encouraged too.
It’s amazing how even little acts of kindness can fuel our tendency towards compassion rather than being centered on ourselves.
Do this by seeking out genuine ways to help others. Rake leaves for your elderly neighbor. Take a meal to a family who could use a home-cooked dinner. Offer to watch your friend’s children. Volunteer at a food pantry, library, or pet shelter.
The possibilities are endless once you’ve gotten in the right mindset.
3. Learn to be content with what you have.
Being content is something that takes a great amount of intentionality, but is such a freeing way of living. Stop desiring what others have and learn to appreciate what you have in this season of life.
One way I’ve found to be helpful in staying content is by being grateful for the little things.
My hot cup of coffee when the house is still quiet. The cozy, worn-in sweater that makes me feel comfortable. The friendly driver who let me turn out of my busy neighborhood. My child’s infectious laughter over the silliest things. The warm embrace after being away from my husband all day.
When we spend our days appreciating these little bits of joy, it encourages us to gain a more positive spirit which makes us feel better and allows others to want to be around us more. We can choose gratitude every day.
4. End the cycle and embrace gratitude.
Thankfully, we don’t have to live in this cycle. We can notice where comparison comes from and learn to turn away from it. Through creating boundaries we can reclaim our joy.
Each one of us is blessed and gifted with different abilities and circumstances, and being grateful for what we’re given is a healthy way to approach each day.
Be your own person, simplify your life, and look for ways to appreciate what you already have in front of you.
Don’t Let Comparison Be the Thief of Joy
Comparison doesn’t have to continue to steal your joy. Don’t compare your life to others. Once you understand how comparison is the enemy of joy, you can work toward stopping it.
What the thief of joy is in your life? Spend some time reflecting on your thoughts and feelings and then work to find contentment in the life that you have.
I hope these tips will help you to embrace gratitude in your life as they have in mine.
Mollie (and her husband, Mike) are authors of their blog, This Evergreen Home. They focus on writing about topics like living intentionally, parenting well, loving deeply, prioritizing goals, and simplifying. Mollie is a homeschooling Mama of three young kids, loves to explore new cities, work in her garden, and spend time enjoying the outdoors.
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I enjoyed reading this. It was helpful. I had been feeling this for quite some time now and I think my focus now should be to compare only against myself. In other words see my own accomplishments then try and progress in my own interests.