Comparison is the thief of Joy ~ Theodore Roosevelt
I don’t know about you but when I compare myself to others I often end up feeling miserable. As the above quote says, it steals away my contentment, happiness and peace and yet it’s so easy to do. Sometimes we don’t even realise that we are doing it.
I mentioned the quote in my last blog post about perspective and the importance of thankfulness. At the time I decided that I wanted to expand on this point about comparison and jealousy because I know from personal experience that it’s one of the biggest challenges that I and many people I know face.
If we are honest we all struggle with comparing ourselves to others in so many different ways.
We see photos of others and instead of just thinking – “wow they look great!” We can often think – “they look great …. how annoying”!! (Because it automatically reminds me that I’m feeling pretty ugly/ fat/ rubbish/ insecure today).
Or maybe we see someone else’s achievements at work, school or within our friendship or family groups. But rather than being able to authentically celebrate it with them – instead it reminds us of our own weaknesses and failures (which can even cause us to lash out at others instead – both directly or indirectly).
Parents do this all the time. Someone else seems to be the perfect parent with perfect children (not that there really is such a thing) and we just end up feeling rubbish about our parenting skills rather than seeing what we do well.
Leaders do it. We look at a similar company, organisation, community group or church and rather than seeing & celebrating their strengths we instead find that their strengths reveal our own weaknesses & feelings of inadequacy. (Although we can hide that by instead looking for all their weaknesses to justify our own!).
Why is it that others’ successes often remind us of our failures?
Most of us have an inward default that compares our weaknesses with another’s strengths.
For instance, I can remember in my early teens one of the boys in my class at school made a comment about my nose. His words were something like, “Ha ha, your nose looks like a beak” and kept calling me Pingu (his observational skills sound quite amusing as I write that down & I think I laughed along at the time – as you do.) But before that day I had never really thought much about my nose. It all changed that day. For a long while after that I was so conscious of my nose. I examined it’s shape in the mirror constantly, wondering how much better I would look with a nicer, smaller, better proportioned nose. Most significantly, from that point on I noticed everyone else’s noses. I compared my ‘beak’ with the girls with the perfectly shaped little noses.
I developed nose envy!
The initial comment from that boy about my ‘beak’ drew my attention to my nose. But it was then my comparison with others’ noses which solidified my insecurity.
We do this all the time and it causes so many problems in families, relationships, communities, schools and workplaces.
Comparison is an epidemic which has markedly worsened by the rise of social media. I appreciate so many of the positives of social media, which is why I use it. But I don’t think anyone can deny it has made comparison and jealousy worse.
When I was at school, as many others can relate to, I would constantly compare myself to all the popular, pretty and super clever girls. I’d wonder which of my friends really were my friends, who did or didn’t like me (and who said what behind your back), which (if any) boys did, or more usually didn’t, fancy me and of course face all the daily challenges of school life…… but at least then I could get some sort of respite from that at home.
Now comparison comes right into the home. It is carried around in your pocket & draws you in when you scroll through your social media, websites and the abundant pictures and information on your smart phone about others.
outstanding people and organisations.
the happiness of others….
And of course…
And the negativity.
Taken directly from the playground, workplace, community and moved into peoples homes and lives through the internet.
No wonder depression, self harm, eating disorders & even suicide seem to be on the rise. Especially in young people.
We are bombarded with the successes, celebrations and good parts of people’s lives. (Who chooses to put that horrible picture of themselves on Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram? We obviously choose the best… and then add a few favourable filters…)
And we can come away feeling rubbish.
And subsequently we can end up despising those people.
Attempting to find cracks in their perceived ‘perfection’.
To fight back.
Competing in our minds and actions.
Whilst slipping further into insecurity.
Jealousy raises it’s ugly head but we don’t always see or perceive it for what it is.
Jealousy and comparison are often so apparent with siblings. I see it all the time with my two girls (and remember it from growing up with my two sisters). It causes so many of the fights between them. A lot of their battles stem from competitiveness, comparison or jealousy.
But they often can’t see it themselves.
All they know is that they feel angry with the other person. They will find all sorts of ways to justify this anger…
She did this
She did that
She said this
She said that
It’s not fair
She had more
Why does she get to have or do that.
And it’s always the other ones fault!
They cannot see that often the problem is often not the other person.
It’s their jealousy,
It’s their comparison.
It’s those feelings that make them feel angry.
It’s those feelings that make them lash out.
That they themselves are a big part of their own problem.
That it takes two to have an argument.
You can’t change how people treat you or what they say about you. All you can do is change how you react to it. -Nicky Gumbel
The problem is often not really about the other person; it’s often really about us and how we feel. We blame other people for our own feelings and insecurities, often without justification.
Yes, other people can hurt us, attack us, be nasty, be difficult, treat us unfairly. But we can rarely change them by fighting back. Actually, fighting back often destroys us more than it does them. We cannot control others’ feelings but we can manage our own feelings and emotions and learn to not let what others do or think dictate how we feel.
I truly believe we can begin to get free from many of the negative effects of comparison and jealousy if we choose to.
We need to become more aware of ourselves and what drives our insecurities.
To begin to recognise that what we really feel is jealousy when comparison draws out our insecurities.
To realise that we cannot make other people change but that we can only change ourselves and our own attitudes.
It’s only as I become more self aware and recognise comparison and jealousy as the source of many of my insecurities that I can begin to get free from its entanglement. It’s only as I realise that when I feel insecure it’s not the other person that made me feel like that – but instead my own reactions to them – that I can move beyond my feelings.
The first step to personal freedom is always self awareness.
Rather than getting frustrated and lashing out at people that make us feel insecure, we must see that most of the problem lies within us. It lies within our own perception of who we really are.
It’s not easy to stop feelings & thoughts of comparison and jealousy. But it is one of the keys to true freedom. It’s a battle worth fighting.
So how do we fight this never ending battle?
By becoming secure in our own uniqueness.
By knowing that we are created as:
One of a kind,
With a unique mix of:
Not to be constantly compared to others but to be discovered & developed as unique and valuable.
There is only one me.
Only I can be me.
To try & be anyone else is far too exhausting.
It’s not an easy path to tread. I have chosen to walk this path but still find I have to daily overcome the temptation to compare who I am and what I do with others. But it’s a path worth taking because it’s the only way to true freedom, contentment and inner peace.
So in this moment I choose to remind myself that I am who I am, a one off, unique, not to be compared with others. Pressing on to become the best version of ME I can be, whilst allowing YOU to be the best version of you that you can be. That way we allow ourselves and one another to discover more freedom.
….. Because I don’t know about you but comparison and jealousy are just not worth it! They just always make me feel miserable!
Comparison is the thief of Joy ~ Theodore Roosevelt
I press on to become the best version of ME I can be, whilst allowing YOU to be the best version of you that you can be. That way we allow ourselves and one another to discover more freedom.
This is the first of two posts on Insecurity. The second post, which I published a week later is The Insecurity of Other Opinions.