Walking down the streets of New York City, I see all kinds of people. I see tall people, short people, skinny people, fat people, ugly people, beautiful people and even unrecognizable people. Immediately, I compare myself to them.
“I am not as fat as her, so I am okay.”
“Oh my gosh, I wish I could be that beautiful.”
“Wow, he must have a lot of money to be carrying that bag around. I wish I did, too.”
“Yikes, I vow to never pierce THAT part of my face.”
And these are just the barest glimpse. My comparisons continue into my interactions with friends, coworkers, family and acquaintances. I compare my job to their job; I compare my body to their body; I compare my lack of relationships to their happy engagement; I compare my happiness to their happiness; I compare my education to their education; and, I compare the way I live to the way they live.
All these comparisons take up the majority of my thoughts. Social media doesn’t help the matter, either. I compare the way I display my life to the way others display their lives. I compare their exciting posts to my posts. The cycle goes on and on and on with no end in sight.
It is easy to fall victim to these comparisons, and I have to admit this has happened to me far too often. I become discouraged because my apartment isn’t as big as my friends’. Then, I try to justify why my apartment is so small, “I live in NYC, I have to pay more, I am paying for the experience or, I really like mine better than theirs, anyway.” You can see how this can be a dangerous and slippery slope.
Sometimes I am brought to tears over these comparisons. I feel like my life compared to another life isn’t as exciting. I feel like I am not as accomplished. I feel like I should be doing MORE, seeing MORE, earning MORE, chasing MORE. And, I doubt I am the only one who feels this way.
The other night I was talking to a friend as she was sharing about the wonderful job opportunity she was going to have soon. Instead of feeling overjoyed and elated for her, I felt jealousy that my job wasn’t as glamorous or as exciting as hers. I told her I was happy for her, because I honestly wanted to believe I was. But if I am honest with myself, I really just felt like crap. Compared to her job, mine seemed stupid.
I could go on forever about comparisons I have made, but there would honestly be no end in sight. I mean, if I had a dollar for how many times I have compared my body to my three best friends’ bodies, who are all tall, leggy and beautiful, then I would never have to work a day of my life.
As I was sitting alone earlier in the week, something hit me; comparing myself to other people is exhausting. Heck, even writing all those comparisons out just now was exhausting. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy,” and I agree with him whole-heartedly.
So, why do I feel the need to compare my life to others’? Why do I feel the need to do more than THEM, look better than THEM, have more fun than THEM, when at the end of the day it is pointless?
I really hope I am not the only person in the world who feels this way, because if I am, then I sound pretty awful. But, I firmly believe everyone struggles with this on some level. Everyone wants to be perceived as greater, stronger, wiser and richer.
From a young age we are taught to compare ourselves. We get grades in grade school, which we automatically compare to see who is the smartest in the class. We get put in reading groups, again to determine who is the smartest or the best reader. We even have show and tell so we can “show off” all that we have. Now these instances don’t automatically scream, “compare yourself to me, young first grader and feel like crap because you don’t have what I have and you aren’t as smart as I am.” But, what first grader doesn’t want to be perceived as smarter or cooler? I am not saying these things are bad, because I definitely enjoyed show and tell. But, on some level I think that’s where all the comparisons begin. Even in my family, I spent years and years comparing myself to my brothers. I wanted to be smarter, more fun, more accomplished, etc.
In the end, what is the point?
Answer: There is no point.
Comparing my life to someone else does NOT make me better. In fact, it probably makes me worse. It makes my friendships full of animosity and it makes me feel like I have a void in my life that cannot be filled unless I am greater than them by comparison. Instead of focusing on my own life, I am picking apart the lives of others to make mine seem better or, I am so hard on myself that I have absolutely no happiness. Yikes, right?
Instead of focusing on others’ lives, looks, accomplishments or relationships, I should be focusing on myself. Am I better than I was yesterday? Am I nicer than I was yesterday? Did I do something different than I did yesterday? If yes, good for me. If no, there is something I can begin to work on.
I would rather be the BEST version of MYSELF than a MEDIOCRE version of SOMEONE ELSE, so why should I compare my life to theirs? And when I really think about it, it isn’t as if I have a bad life! I actually really enjoy my life, and these little comparisons rob me of the joy I feel. These comparisons push my joy to the side and take over, which is no longer okay with me.
From now on, instead of comparing myself to others, I want to live my life to my standards. I want to wake up and be happy with where I am and where I am going. I don’t need to look from side to side, seeing where I stand in comparison to my friends, family and acquaintances. I need to stare straight ahead and run the race in front of me. Looking at others will only slow me down. Feeling like my life fails in comparison will only depress me and cause me to not achieve my own greatness.
I also shouldn’t compare others to me. I shouldn’t expect someone else to want the same things I want. I shouldn’t expect someone else to like the same things I like.
I firmly believe we all have things we should strive for, and that is great. But, we shouldn’t strive for those things in effort to be greater than another person or another life. We should strive to be a better version of ourselves. In the end, we won’t be as exhausted, we will have more joy and, most importantly, we will have more love and appreciation for those who are different.