Why Comparison is the Thief of Joy

Teddy Roosevelt is frequently attributed to the phrase, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” But no matter who said it, the universe has been sending me the clear message that comparing myself to others does absolutely nothing but make me doubt my abilities. From Mel Robbins to Gary Vaynerchuk, the universe has one thing to say: just stop with all the damn comparison Erin!

At the end of the day the question becomes: What does someone else’s success have to do with me?

The answer: nothing.

The problem with comparison is that we can let it get in our heads that we aren’t good enough. And I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of thinking I’m not good enough because I let the stories my mind makes up go unchecked. It’s usually a bullshit story about how someone I only know via the internet has been given some magical, get shit done power that I never received and so I’ll never be able to do what I want. And the real kicker is, when I’m too busy feeling unmotivated because I’m wasting my time comparing me versus them, I’m not doing the work I need to be doing for me to succeed.

It’s like negative begets more negative. Something frustrates you or you fear doing the work so you go on social media and see all those people succeeding.  Then you wonder why you aren’t succeeding like them. Now you have a choice: continue comparing yourself to them and keep scrolling or put the phone down and get to work?

I don’t believe comparison itself is a bad thing, but we have a tendency to compare the wrong things. Instead of me versus you, we should be comparing ourselves today with ourselves yesterday. Have we improved? How much closer are we to our goals? Did we stick to our process or did we distract ourselves with social media again? Did we ask for and receive feedback on our work (from a trusted source of course)? If things aren’t working, what can you to do improve?

I’m not saying we should live in an isolated bubble completely free of social media.  I’m saying we need to stop using those people we follow as a comparison to us. Rather, use them to help us become a greater version of who we are. Struggling with a workout routine you can stick with? See what kinds of exercises your favorite fitness person is doing to see if there’s something fun you haven’t thought of before. Struggling with a routine that will help you write more? Go check out your favorite writer to see what and how their routine is and take what will work for you.

So yes, I’m advocating stealing other people’s processes and ideas. And for the love of all things beautiful, we need to stop negatively comparing ourselves to other people.

There is enough success to go around; we don’t have to dim our lights because we see other people’s light shining too. We do not fail because someone else has succeeded. It’s time we believe enough in ourselves and understand our greatness comes from within not from being better or worse than someone else. 

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