© London Free Press 2019
“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
— Theodore Roosevelt
I can’t remember when I first heard that quote, but it’s been buzzing around in my head for the past few months and I quote it often.
As a new year begins, with another opportunity to reset and reimagine ourselves, it seems fitting to start there.
We are constantly comparing — let’s be honest.
The advertising industry uses that as one of its techniques. It wants us to think we need to look a certain way or have the latest technology or have things in general. Do we want to be left behind, a nerd, a recluse, disconnected, unattractive, old, too young, poor or wanting? We are encouraged to look outside ourselves for the secret to happiness.
It’s such a crock.
I wish I had back every second I spent on worrying about my looks, weight, what people thought of me, whether I said the wrong thing, whether I pissed someone off and whether I was worthy of love, friendship, work and praise. Admit it, we’ve all been there.
It’s hard when there are people pushing, though. I was bullied as a preteen, but I had nothing compared to today’s young folks. No one cyberbullied me. That stuff is dangerous, sad and evil. And unfortunately, it’s not just the young that do it. Adults do, too.
I’m thinking about all of this as I am lured into clicking on clothing, gadgets or food online. Maybe it’s something I’ve already showed interest in, and that was the bait. Then there are the long hours I spend lurking in others’ lives in Instagram videos to see what they present about their lives.
But then not many folks are going to video themselves bawling in their car because they had incredible anxiety just outside of a networking event. Nor will someone broadcast their mom’s dying breath. I’m fairly certain there will be no cellphone video footage of someone getting the news that their child has died in a horrible accident. Who wants to see that stuff? No one longs for that life.
What we really long for is connection, not comparison. But most of the stuff we post and see isn’t a true reflection of any of us.
As Brene Brown, a bestselling author and professor of social work at the University of Houston says, “We are wired for story. We are wired for connection.”
That’s not just the good stuff; it’s the messy stuff too. Actually, it’s the messy stuff that really connects us and makes it real. In our darkest moments, most of us want to know that we’re not the only one in this and we’re not the only one feeling this way.
As you watch your friends commit on social media to whatever improvements they decide to make this year or you gaze at the images of what seems like the perfect celebrity life, know that you are not alone in sadness, grief, feelings of inadequacy, financial struggles and identity.
We all struggle with something. Everyone has burdens; everyone has dark day — everyone, without exception. No one is immune, no matter how powerful, how popular and how much money they have.
It was Susan Powter, a popular fitness and motivational guru in the 1990s, who used to scream, “Stop the insanity!”
In this case, stop comparing yourself to others. Everyone is on a road of discovery, heartbreak, disappointment and joy. Individuality is your superpower. No one is like you, so stop thinking you need to be anyone else but you.
Comparison will steal your joy.
It’s a brand new year and instead of making promises to yourself you have no intention of keeping, why not make this the year you accept yourself and stop the comparison?
All you have to lose is all that time you spent worrying.