“Comparison is the thief of joy” is a quote usually attributed to Theodore Roosevelt – but what does it mean, and how can it be applied?
Aristotle said that “man is by nature a social animal” – we are brought up in groups and are often ranked or graded against our peers, e.g. in school. It can seem natural to compare ourselves with the people around us, but how much does it really help?
Comparison might be a good way to motivate ourselves to do better – a form of “healthy competition”.
However, if you feel very hurt by something it is worth looking at it in more detail and working out what is happening. Identifying the roots of issue can be your first step towards making the changes that you want.
When you compare yourself to others, do you feel that you are lacking or not living up to something? Where has that belief come from? Do you truly desire what the other person has? If so, what can you do to work towards that? If not, are you harbouring a belief which isn’t right for you?
Do you believe you don’t deserve to be happy or should not be proud of what you have? Why?
When we compare ourselves other people, it can be easy to end up not really seeing what we have. For instance, a runner might have just achieved their best-ever time in a race – but then might compare against someone else’s time. Rather than feeling pride, our runner then feels that his or her achievement does not mean anything – comparison has been the thief of his or her joy.
If your best friend or someone you really care about told you they had achieved something, would you tell them they hadn’t done as well as someone else? If not, why would you say that to yourself?
“Be your own best friend” might sound a bit trite, but it can be a useful way of checking how we speak to ourselves!