Comparison is a sneaky little b word. It creeps up on you just when you think you’re at your happiest. Life feels like it couldn’t get any better, then bam. You see someone else’s “picture perfect” life summed up in pretty filtered photographs, or read about someone else’s accomplishments like they’re lifetimes beyond your own, and suddenly the self-doubting thoughts flood in. “Wait, what am I doing over here? Why aren’t I successful doing x, y, or z? Why is it taking me so long? What if I just… maybe I would be happier then.”
My wise friend Amy once said (read: I don’t know who actually said it, so we’re giving props to her),
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
I love this so much. It’s simple enough to commit to memory and repeat to yourself when those feelings of inadequacy start to creep in. And more than that, it’s so. true. This trap of comparison can be all too easy to fall into. Real life example #1: I just started this new wedding planning and blogging adventure, and that’s such an exciting, happy thing! But it is not free of self-inflicted comparison. In blogging, I’ve already hit the obstacles of comparing my writing to others, comparing my design to others, comparing my starting point to others five year blog anniversary point… and it’s nonsense. There’s no reason to get bogged down by all those layers of doubt and guilt. The reality is that I’m surrounded by so much support and encouragement, that any such feelings should be rare and fleeting. The reality is, if you’re doing the best you can and you’re happy while you’re doing it, there’s no room for comparison.
I feel I’m at a good place in my life, but I still stumble on certain things that steal my joy – some only for fleeting moments and some that sting a little longer. And they spring up in all categories of life (comparison does not discriminate in the thievery of joy department). There are a few that come to mind, either from my own experience or just my own understanding of how things can go sometimes, and I want to encourage you to avoid certain comparisons.
Don’t compare in career choice. Everyone else might be doing [blank], but are you happy in your job? If yes, great! Perfect, you are just where you need to be, doing exactly what you need to do for yourself. It just really doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. Another point. We live in this culture of doing more and more, but what if you’re happy doing less and still able to support yourself and/or your family? That’s perfectly normal. And healthy. And no matter what, you’re doing enough. If you’re not satisfied, think about how you can make changes, but don’t make them based on the path someone else is taking unless it’s right for you too. Their definition of success may be very different than your own, and ultimately you will be more successful writing your own.
Don’t compare in friendships. Ouch. This one’s a tough one for me sometimes. It can be really hard to watch your friendships grow then change then sometimes move on altogether. Naturally people’s lives grow and change, so it only makes sense for friendships to grow and change accordingly. The goal is to find friends who will stick with you through it all, and sometimes the best outcome you can hope for is to connect with those friends every couple months and feel as if no time has passed at all. It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) diminish your friendship; it just means life is happening.
However, I also know there are those friendships that seem to just move on altogether. You both find new jobs in new cities and meet new friends and schedules get crazy and people start getting married and having babies and before you know it, you find yourself sad that you don’t hangout with or talk to those friends anymore. It can be especially hard watching your friends find new people to make memories with. It’s the worst. What can you do? Reach out. Text. Call. Try to reconnect. Yes, it’s possible that too much time and life has passed for things to pick up where they left off, but I think odds are greater that person misses you just as much. I feel guilty on a consistent basis that I don’t reach out to people or hang out with them as much as I honest to goodness want to, so let’s work on it together.
Don’t compare in travel. Gosh, another tough one. All my excuses for not traveling more (and all the amazing places I have traveled to) seem to fade when I see people seemingly traveling more than me to even more amazing places. We have Facebook and other social media to thank for these feelings. I know you’ve probably heard this before regarding this age of social media, but don’t compare your real life to someone else’s highlight reel. Of course we think everyone’s traveling except us when that’s all we see online. And of course people want to post pictures of vacations and not day-to-day struggles, because those are the happiest times in their lives!
But think about it. Haven’t you posted vacation photos before, and don’t you think someone was sitting on their couch with Netflix in the background, wishing they had your life? Another thought. What do you think these people are doing the rest of the time? Probably working their butts off to go on vacation and enjoy their lives to the fullest. If you want to travel more, set your mind on specific destinations and make traveling a priority (sorry, a little harsh, but I’m talking to myself too here; I need this advice as much as you). If you want some inspiration, check out this traveling couple we stayed with through Airbnb; I’m obsessed with their adventure!
Don’t compare in love. I’m not just talking about romantic love either. I know there are hard times in family love as well. Love can come in many different forms from many different sources, and I know it can be tough if you don’t feel you’re getting enough of it. But back to our conversation about social media, and beyond that, the general image that people prefer to portray in public. C’mon, it’s pretty fundamental that we prefer to act like everything’s okay when most conversations go, “Hi, how are you?” “Good, how are you?” “Good.” Guilty as charged, but are we really good, people?? I guess what I’m trying to say is, you might see what you think is the perfect couple or the perfect little family, but don’t use that as a comparison for your own situation. Everyone’s got their own crap and their own struggles, big or small. Regardless of your unique situation, you are so loved.
Don’t compare in life. There are so many other categories of comparison we can find ourselves in, but we shouldn’t go to those places. None of them. Find the joy in your journey, and don’t let anyone take that from you.
Which categories do you find yourself making comparisons in, and what do you do to regain your joy?