Comparison Is The Thief Of Joy, But We've Got To Stop Leaving The Door Unlocked

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” You’ve heard it before. I’ve heard it before. Then I’ve heard it again each time I open Instagram. And then again when I look at LinkedIn. Oh, and again when I pass a random, New York City-chic gal strutting her stuff down 5th Avenue.

I hear this a lot. But that’s because I keep leaving the door unlocked.

Everyone knows that comparison is an easy trap to fall into. Especially with our lives so blatantly on display, we know the highlights of someone’s day before we sit down to eat dinner. Those highlights look a heck of a lot better than the very detailed 24-hours we just endured…if only we could have spent that full day lounging on a beach with an umbrella drink!

Social media did not invent this well-known phrase — “comparison is the thief of joy” has been around long before you were upset over your Instagram likes. Teddy Roosevelt was the one who coined this little proverb, and we’ve been repeating it ever since. Even though President Roosevelt’s comparison may have come from offline issues, unlike that of our current, Twitter-happy POTUS (I kid, folks, I kid), there are plenty of other aspects of life that lead to comparison.

To dive right in to what makes you squirm: Body image, career milestones, relationships, financial means, vacations, and just overall success.

In other words, the things that you want to be really impressive come your 10-year high school reunion.

We’ve all struggled in comparison of one, if not all, of those little beauties. We’ve all spent an absurd amount of time focused on someone else’s life instead of our own — so much so that we use the lives of others as the standard for which we ought to live.

If I asked you how you felt about that — using a perception (or hey, even real life) of someone to guide your own life — you would, of course, say NO! That’s silly! No one died and made the small-waisted girl on your Instagram feed God! But here we are, defying logic and allowing our emotions to guide what we spend our valuable time on.

Here’s the nitty gritty, pals. You can’t just snap your fingers and have comparison exit your life. But you can make small, effective changes so that you are not prone to diving into the comparison deep-end.

Control the things that you can. If you are finding yourself comparing your reality to the things others have probably worked really hard for, you’re going to need to make some changes. Get your butt in the gym, take a class that may help you advance at work, or just adapt a hobby that is beneficial and productive. Above all else, you can’t do these things to match someone else — begin these practices with a specific-to-you goal in mind. This is not about becoming someone else, this is about shaping a better you.

Accept the what you cannot control. Oh, they have a family inheritance that pays for their chic apartment, tropical vacation, and car service? Groovy. You can’t just get one of those…take it from someone who wiggled their nose in an “I Dream of Genie” like fashion and never made anything appear, sometimes it’s just not in the cards for you! Believe it or not, you’ll survive. Accept it and move on. If you’re struggling with that, maybe it’s time to focus on gratitude.

Write down three things you’re thankful for each day. Remind yourself of how blessed you are so you don’t spend all your time longing for the blessings of others.

Love where you are. There are people who are looking at your life, as it is right now, and thinking “wow, they’re really killing it.” They’re saying that, I heard them! Where you are may not be where you want to hang out forever, but there are amazing lessons to be learned and growth to be had. Don’t strive for tomorrow to the point where you forget about the joys today holds.

Love where you’re going. All that growth? All that work you’re tirelessly putting in right now? Loving where you’re going brings joy into each part of whatever journey you’re on, no matter how many late nights you find yourself participating in.

“But Lil, the door is still unlocked?”

Well gosh dangit, LOCK IT UP! Make it a habit. Maybe this means deleting Instagram for a little while, having an automatic “gratitude list” to recite when you’re feeling glum, or busying yourself with activities that help you grow more and wallow less.

Stop accepting comparison as this inevitable thing that everyone is plagued with — instead, but so present and thankful in your life and the lives of those close to you that sneaky lil’ thief finds a deadbolt, every time.