“Comparison is the thief of Joy” -Theodore Roosevelt.
In a world that is more and more being run online and through social media, we are becoming increasingly obsessed with our body and self-image. Finding the perfect filter on Instagram. Editing our selfies with the countless apps available. Overthinking our twitter content to ensure it will be liked and retweeted. The online obsession is endless and is causing all of us to compare and question whether our own lives are enough. This issue isn’t just in our digital world though. It existed long beforehand with the grass is always greener concept. The idea that our neighbour always has more than us.
“Comparison is the thief of Joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt
If you are anything like me, I spend far too much time scrolling my Facebook newsfeed or Instagram. It is difficult not to compare my own life to the perfect world that is portrayed by each of us online.
This comparison relates to every aspect of life. Our fixation with body image is a big one when we see teeny tiny models, or enormous body builders online and in magazines. We think, why don’t we look like that? We compare relationships. Our friends are in a relationship, or engaged, or married and announcing their pregnant. We question ourselves, should we be doing that? It goes on, we are the age that travels, many times I have become irrationally jealous of someone’s holiday photos on Facebook, only to realise that I am extremely well traveled and it is possible that at one point someone had these exact feelings about my posts.
It is my reaction
There came a point about a year ago where I realised something important. I am doing this to myself. I am causing this personal misery. It is my choice to look at these pictures when I KNOW what my reaction will be. I will compare, and be envious, and likely forget how blessed my own life is. I will steal my own joy. Thanks social media. My solution AT THE TIME was; Do not scroll! Please notice, that was my best solution at that point in my life.
Do not get me wrong, I enjoy social media for a lot of reasons, it definitely has its benefits. However, I knew in myself at that time, if I scroll and scroll I will become irrationally down about my own life. Irrational, because I understand that people put their BEST selves onto social media. It is not always the full story. We tend to share the positive moments, which I agree with to an extent, spread the joy right? Well, spreading the joy depends on your reaction to what you are seeing. REACTION is key, which brings me to my next point.
Can Comparison be a good thing?
I am not sure Theodore Roosevelt was entirely accurate. There is the flip side to all this, that comparison actually motivates and inspires us to better ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually.
How often have you been motivated by someone’s progress you have seen online with their physical health journey and wanted to achieve the same things they are? Does seeing those images and hearing their stories actually motivate you? This is a positive reaction that can bring MORE joy. Again, this relates to all aspects of life. Has seeing someone achieve a life goal inspired you to get out of bed and chase your dreams? Does seeing holiday images of a gorgeous beach or amazing photos of an adventurous vacation, inspire you to work hard, save money and book that next holiday? Eleanor Roosevelt famously said “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” This seems to hit the nail on the head. Comparison is about mindset. With the right mindset, comparison can actually encourage us to accomplish more in our lives.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
I have started (limited) scrolling again, because I have managed to shift my mindset to be inspired by what I view online. I see a photo of a great place to visit in the world, and add it to my list of places to go. Or I see a woman with a fantastic fit and healthy body, I make more healthy life choices that day, eating better and being more active. Is comparison really the thief of joy? Or is it our greatest motivator?
Most often when we compare ourselves to others, online or in everyday life, we are comparing ourselves to people we perceive as ‘better.’ Any negative thought patterns that occur are likely coming from our own insecurities and knowing we are capable of so much more.
To break this negative cycle, maybe it’s time to compare ourselves to those less fortunate than us. We are surrounded by examples of this but often do not compare our lives to these situations.
The other side of comparison
Compare your life to someone picking up the pieces of their house and scattered belongings after suffering through Hurricane Irma this past week. If you are reading this blog; you must have internet, and electricity, and a device to read it on, and a place to read it, a roof over your head, likely food to eat, a place to sleep. Our life doesn’t seem so bad all of a sudden. Compare your life to someone suffering a debilitating disease, or a refugee fleeing a war-torn country. Our grass is looking pretty green.
To experience real joy, research shows we must express gratitude. We spend so much time thinking other peoples grass is greener, when we actually have NO clue about what is really going on in their life. We do not see how green the grass is underfoot, how blessed we are. I highly suggest keeping a gratitude journal each day, there are literally endless things to be grateful for. Watch your happiness levels grow if you spend time each day focusing on gratitude. For more reading on Happiness, check out my blog The Ultimate Choice.
Comparing ourselves to both ends of the world scale can balance us and that is when we can start the true comparison, the comparison of ourselves against the person we were. Where are we on our journey to our life goals? Are we further along our path today than we were yesterday? Are we moving forward in our journey?
Next time you see someone on the street or online that you compare yourself to and feel the beginnings of a negative thought spiral. Take a moment to consider how you can have what they have, let it awaken a sense of drive to succeed! Embrace comparison as a tool you can utilise to help you fulfill all of your goals.
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Love and Light