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Do you ever find yourself caught in the comparison trap? If so, you’re not alone. It’s human nature to compare and there are so many ways to compare ourselves to other people – money, house, cars, job title, attractiveness, popularity; the list goes on and on.
In cases like this, comparison is the thief of joy.
It can make us feel bad about ourselves and rob us of our happiness. In this blog post, we will discuss five reasons why comparison is the thief of happiness and how to overcome it, so you can start living your happiest, best, and most authentic life.
5 reason comparison is the thief of joy
In 1898, Theodore Roosevelt penned these words to his friend: “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Now, over a century later, those words ring just as true as when he uttered them more than 100 years ago.
In fact, like a fine wine, this quote on comparison and the danger thereof has gotten even better with age! Most of us can instantly identify with this saying. However, it can mean different things to different people.
There are a plethora of ways to interpret the subtle nuances of this six-word quote, so what is the true meaning of comparison is the thief of joy?
Here are five interpretations as well as strategies to help you avoid comparing yourself to others and letting envy, jealousy, and negative thoughts steal your joy.
1. Comparison is the thief of joy
Comparison can be good or bad. If comparing yourself to someone else, say a mentor or someone you look up to, makes you feel encouraged and motivated, then that comparison is positive. However, a great deal of comparisons makes us feel bad about ourselves because our life doesn’t look as great as this or that person’s.
Life is complex; all of us have incredibly personal needs and wants, just as we have our own personal privileges and obstacles. Hence, how can you make an accurate comparison and not feel miserable?
One thing is for sure, if we compare ourselves to others and find that we don’t measure up, it can lead to feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem. We may start to believe that we’re not good enough, or become overly competitive, thereby ruining relationships and losing sight of what’s important and meaningful.
BE INSPIRED: 50+ Simple Joys of Life to Delight in Each Day
2. Perfection is only an illusion
No one is perfect, yet we often hold ourselves to unrealistic standards set by society, media, and social media. We compare our life’s behind-the-scenes footage with everyone else’s highlight reel and wonder why we don’t measure up. In reality, we don’t see the challenges and struggles they face.
Remember, what holds true to you is also true for others, meaning just as you don’t like to air your struggles and dirty laundry, nor do other people. So don’t compare your life to someone else’s and think you’re falling short. You have no idea what goes on behind their closed doors.
According to Zen Buddhism, beauty lies in imperfection; this concept is also known as wabi-sabi.
3. Life is not fair
This is a hard one to accept, but it’s true. Life isn’t fair, and it never will be. You might have friends or follow people on social media who seem to have it all while you’re struggling to make ends meet.
It’s not fair that they were dealt a better hand, but comparing yourself to them will only make you feel worse.
Not everyone is born rich, gifted, a world-class athlete, beautiful, or has a Mensa-level IQ. The reality is there will always be people better off than you and worse off than you.
4. Comparison is the thief of dreams
If you’re constantly comparing yourself to others, chances are you’re not living your own dream. You might even be chasing success by someone else’s definition and ignoring your own calling.
There’s nothing wrong with being inspired by others, but don’t live others’ dreams.
5. Comparison turns family and friends into adversaries
When you’re comparing yourself to others, it’s easy to start seeing the people closest to you as your adversaries. Maybe your sister always seems to be more well-liked or your best friend has a higher income and a bigger house.
Comparing yourself to others, particularly family members and friends, will only turn people away from you. This is a toxic habit that should be avoided at all costs.
Take a step back and think about it – shouldn’t you wish the people you love and care for the best and be happy for them? Understanding and changing your viewpoint will make you feel great about them and yourself.
Ways to stop comparing yourself to others
1. Practice Gratitude
One way to stop comparing yourself to others is to practice gratitude. When you focus on being thankful for the good in your life, it’s easier to see all the reasons why you shouldn’t compare yourself to others.
This means being thankful for what you have and not always wishing you had more. It sounds simple, but it’s certainly not easy.
Think about all the things you’re grateful for, including your family, friends, health, kids, stable job, etc. Count them all – you will realize how fortunate you are.
Here is a blog post I wrote a while ago, discussing how to bring more joy and happiness into your life. Check it out if you would like to learn how to adopt the habits of the happiest people in the world: 30 Happy Person Habits to Adopt for More Joy In Your Life.
2. Focus on self-improvement rather than rivalry
Comparing yourself to others can become a destructive habit if you’re always trying to one-up the person you’re comparing yourself to. Constantly striving to be better than someone else is a recipe for disaster because it’s not sustainable in the long run.
Instead of comparing yourself to others, focus on self-improvement.
Are you better off today than a year or two ago? Are you moving in the right direction towards your personal goals?
These are positive comparisons because you objectively compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges – it’s your life to your own life!
However, don’t be too harsh with yourself if things are not going according to your wishes. Because there are things we can’t control, after all. Focus on changing the things you have the power and desire to change and continue moving forward.
3. Free yourself from social medial
Social media is a breeding ground for comparison. When bored, we look for entertainment on social media; it’s only a click or tap away. The AI-driven algorithms can quickly figure out what we like or that pushes our buttons and supply us with endless streams of content, causing us to get glued to the screen.
If you are not careful, you can spend all your free time mindlessly scrolling.
In the end, it only makes you feel unsatisfied with your own life. If you’re constantly comparing your life to the highlight reel of someone else’s, it might be time to spend less time on social media or even take a break from it altogether.
Replace that time with something productive and or healthy. Maybe you can get outside, learn new skills, work on a hobby that you enjoy, or have more free time to spend with your loved ones.
4. Surround yourself with authentic people
Another way to free yourself from comparison is to surround yourself with authentic people. When you’re around people who are comfortable in their skin, it’s easier to be comfortable in your own skin.
Seek relationships with people who make you feel good about yourself, and avoid relationships with people who make you feel bad.
Comparison is the thief of joy. If you find yourself comparing a little too often, try to take a step back and focus on your own life.
Focus on making experiences that will last a lifetime. Be grateful for your unique talents and qualities, and use them to create the life you always wanted. You are the only one who can make that happen.
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