This morning, I shared this photo about comparison being the thief of joy on my personal facebook page.
And then I got to thinking…
If you’re in the habit of surrounding yourself with people who inspire you and challenge you to make yourself better, comparison comes with the territory. Even if you hang out with losers, with the internet, we can compare ourselves to just about anyone we’d like. It can be pretty darn defeating to compare yourself to anyone and everyone, especially given that we tend to compare our worst with everyone else’s best.
But, comparing—and feeling “jealous” or “envious”—can be a good thing.
In coaching, the basic question you’re often asking or being asked is some jazzed up version of “What do you want?” Most people don’t have coaches. The ones who do—myself included—are caught off guard the first time they’re asked these kinds of questions. Many of us know what we don’t want—and talk about it at any opportunity (i.e. I don’t want: these 10lbs, this homework assignment, to be unemployed, to be single anymore, etc. etc.). In the absence of someone to ask us what we do want and to shift the focus back to what we want to create in our lives, realizing that we’re jealous of what someone else has can serve the same function.
There’s a few girls I train with (in the same building with, I should say) who can do amazing things. Whether it’s squatting a ridiculously awesome amount or doing endless pull-ups or some other feat of athleticism, I have quite a few girl crushes. It would be easy for me to get down on myself—why can’t you do that, Cheryl?—and I’ve been there, done that. A reminder from an oh so wise and handsome fellow in my life help me put things into perspective: How hard have they worked to get there? How long have they been doing this stuff for?
Without using the life coach lingo, my boyfriend hit on the question I needed to bring me back to perspective: Where are they in their journey? Taking a step back and realizing that someone’s process might be further along than yours can shift everything. Rather than thinking that the girl doing all the pull-ups is strong and so you must be weak, you can appreciate that she isn’t “better” than you even if she is further along than you.
In other areas, we don’t even need a real person to measure ourselves up against. In lieu of someone to compare ourselves to, we can get sucked into the “should” comparison trap. I know I’m guilty of pitting myself up against my ideas of where I think I “should” be right now. When I was younger, I assumed I’d be married and thinking about babies by the time I was 25. Realizing that I’m not there can alert me to two things: 1) Maybe my expectations were off; or, 2) Maybe I need to adjust my actions to get me closer to my vision for myself.
In any comparison scenario, there’s no point in beating ourselves up. If we’re expecting too much of ourselves, it’s an invitation to take some of the pressure off ourselves. If we didn’t realize we wanted something until we felt jealous of someone who had it, we can look at comparison as an awakening of our desires. If we haven’t been working hard enough and we really do what to be somewhere else, comparison can serve as a check-in to get us back on track.
Avoiding comparison can be a cop out. If you’re not willing to compare yourself, what are you trying to save yourself from? Like I said, there’s no harm in comparison as long as you remember that not measuring up doesn’t make you any less of a worthy, whole individual–it just gives you feedback about where you’re at in relation to where you’d rather be.
So, yes, I shared that cutesy photo about comparison being the thief of joy. And yes, I think we should be careful with what we do with our comparisons. But, comparison might lead us to getting clearer about what we want for ourselves. It might give us an indication of when we should be impressed by–and inspired by–other people. It might get at what’s missing in our lives that would make us happier and more fulfilled and end up being a doorway to joy.
Who do you compare yourself with?
Do you avoid comparison? What do you think this does for you?
What do you think of jealousy/envy?