“Comparison is the thief of joy.”
He was right. Comparing ourselves to others is pointless, yet we all do it. Here we take a look at how to stop making these unnecessary comparisons.
If you’ve ever felt jealous or envious of someone else, you’ll understand what the former president means. When we compare ourselves unfavourably to others, we always end up feeling inadequate or depressed. And yet, we all seem to do it.
The other day I had a run-in with comparison when I was catching up with my good friend. My friend and I went to high-school together so we’ve known each other for a long time.
As we were chatting, we eventually started talking about what we were doing for work. I told him that I was currently working in hospitality and in my free time, I was working as a freelance SEO writer. Then he started telling me about his modelling career.
He was telling me how he was really enjoying it and that he’d had the opportunity to work with Heidi Klum, but he didn’t go into too much detail from there. So I asked him a couple more questions.
“How much are you working at the moment?”
“The other week I worked about 4 hours.”
“What?! That’s it… How much did you get paid?”
Instead of feeling happy and excited for his success, those two words hit me like a tonne of bricks. Of course, I pretended that I was happy for him, but admittedly, I felt jealous and insecure. He was working with the famous supermodel Heidi Klum and getting paid $1000 an hour, whilst I was working behind a bar with a guy called Bob.
Of course, this logic discounts all the hard work he’s put into his modelling career, its ambiguous nature, and all the hours he’s spent at castings, networking and in the gym. And It also discounts everything that’s happening in my life and what I’m working towards. But in that moment, nothing else mattered.
It didn’t take me long to regain my composure and even if Anthony did notice my sudden mood change, he didn’t care. But I was annoyed with myself. I had unfairly compared my life circumstances with my friend’s. Not only is this self-centered and egotistical, but nothing positive could have come from it.
WHY COMPARING OURSELVES TO OTHERS IS POINTLESS
If comparing ourselves to others is pointless and makes us feel bad, why do we do it?
The answer is actually quite basic. We do it because we think that in doing so, we will somehow understand where we fit in society. But, these comparisons are always unfair because they focus in on insignificant details and ignore the more important aspects of life.
In the introduction, I told the story of how I compared my hourly wage with my friends’. Obviously, his $1000 an hour completely destroyed my hospitality wage. I came up short in and it made me feel inadequate. In that moment, I unconsciously assumed that because he was earning more money than me, he must be doing better than me at everything else in our lives.
But, this comparison has inaccurate assumptions that ignore the full picture. It discounts our relationships, the work we’ve put in to get where we are, the sacrifices we’ve made, what we don’t know about each other, and unique perspectives.
When we realise how unfair these comparisons are, it quickly becomes apparent that they’re illogical and that these comparisons are impossible to measure. And if you can’t accurately measure other people’s lives, you can’t make accurate comparisons so why make them in the first place? Especially, if these comparisons deprive us of joy in our lives.
WHAT ABOUT WHEN WE WIN?
At this point, you might be thinking what about the comparisons we make when we come out on top? Those comparisons make us feel better and superior to others so surely they’re ok to make? But you’d be wrong.
In fact, these comparisons are probably worse.
Instead of judging yourself and concluding you’re not good enough, you’re judging someone else and concluding they’re not good enough. People can subconsciously pick up on these judgements and will unknowingly cause them to feel insecure. If this still sounds ok to you, you’re on the wrong website. Judging others will never be a characteristic of a capable man.
“Who are you to judge the life I live? I know I’m not perfect – and I don’t live to be – but before you start pointing fingers… make sure your hands are clean!”
HOW TO STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO OTHERS
Now that you know how pointless comparison is in our lives, how do you stop doing it?
I highly recommend becoming more self-aware by practicing meditation. Practicing meditation will teach you how to recognise when you make comparisons in the moment. If you can recognise them as they happen, it’s much easier to stop them in their track. Or if you do lose yourself in a comparison, meditation will also teach you how to quickly regain your composure by re-focusing your attention.
But, as far as meditation goes, I understand that many of you won’t be interested. It also takes time and practice to get to a level where you can catch yourself in those moments. So what practical advice can you act on now to stop comparing yourself to others?
UNDERSTAND THE FOOLISHNESS OF COMPARISON
If you’ve gone through this article and come to the conclusion that you need to stop comparing yourself to others, you’re halfway there. Until you understand how foolish comparison can be, you won’t put in the effort to stop. If you haven’t reached this understanding yet, here are a couple more articles that will help:
- Why You Should Stop Comparing Yourself to Others (And How to Do It)
- A Helpful Guide to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
REMIND YOURSELF OF YOUR OWN VALUE
Michelangelo once said:
He was right. In our own lives, we are the sculptors of ourselves and it’s our task to discover our own value.
We all have our own unique value. It might be different and not as socially acceptable as others, but it exists nonetheless. Franz Kafka was a social recluse, but he still wrote two of the best literary works the world has ever seen. In fact, this tends to be a theme among great works of art.
We all have different and unique personalities, so it doesn’t make sense to compare ourselves to others. Remind yourself of this fact and you’ll realise that it’s like comparing apples with bananas. It just doesn’t work.
FOCUS ON ACTION OVER VANITY METRICS
Instead of looking at the surface level of people and their successes, re-focus your attention on all the hard work they’ve done to get there. All success is preceded by massive action. If you focus on comparing your actions rather than results, you’ll arrive at a much fairer evaluation. And once you’ve realised how much work they’ve put in, you’ll feel a lot less inadequate about your own results.
GO FOR A WALK
If comparison has taken you over and you’re already feeling its effects, one of the best things you can do is remove yourself from the situation and go for a walk. Some solid introspection will help you understand exactly what’s happened and help you regain your composure.
Finally, remember that no one is perfect. Regardless of how perfect and successful people may appear on the surface, they have their own unique problems and hurdles to face. If you must compare, compare with a past version of yourself, but remember that comparison is the thief of joy and you won’t find lasting happiness in it.