Comparison is the thief of joy

Comparisons can be made all around us, ‘they have more things than me, they are prettier than me, they are funnier than me’.

Online social comparison can result in social media envy and FOMO (‘fear of missing out’). People suffering with FOMO is becoming more and more common, with individuals comparing their own experiences to others. We compare our own lives to a performance standard defined by society. Theodore Roosevelt said ‘comparison is the thief of joy’. When we compare, we determine our worth according to other people’s performance in life, leading to feelings of insignificance and insecurity. Researchers Summerville and Roese (2009) actually found that comparative thought accounts for 12% of our daily thoughts. It can be anxiety-provoking and mentally and emotionally distressing.

This Christmas I think it could be so easy to compare your version of Christmas to others, to see others receiving better gifts or others being able to buy more expensive gifts, to see happier families, nicer in-laws, tastier meals and more Christmas lights. As we come to the end of 2021, we can look at our year through the lens of the high standards we set for ourselves to meet the expectations and requirements of others set by society. But the truth is we have all had personal growth of some kind, we have all succeeded in some way, we have been stretched and challenged like never before and had to adapt to a new world. We all have something to be proud of.

So here are some ideas to reflect upon. Remember that what people may present outwardly is not a true representation of what is going on inside. Think about this, have you ever been shocked by a seemingly solid and ‘perfect’ couple announcing their divorce e.g., Brangelina or Kim and Kanye? What others show on social media is a meticulously crafted mirage of how they want to be perceived and the same goes for real life. Behind smiles and brags are insecurities, vulnerabilities and anxieties. Robin Williams once said ‘all it takes is a beautiful fake smile to hide an injured soul and they will never notice how broken you really are’. Don’t strive for a fake idea of perfect. And don’t put pressure on yourself to be perfect because there really is no such thing.

‘I wish everyone could get rich and famous and have everything they ever dreamed of so they would know that’s not the answer.’ —Jim Carrey.

Secondly, be grateful for all the good things in your life and ignore the whispers or loud voices that tell you it’s not enough. As soon as you get sucked into these lies, stop and take a step back. How about you practice reflecting on all the blessings in your life- there is so much to be thankful for. It has been found that gratitude can be a powerful tool and can increase our wellbeing, make us happier and increase our self-esteem to name a few. ‘Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough’ Oprah Winfrey.

Finally, think about using comparison in a positive way. Use healthy comparisons to motivate yourself. See the generosity in others, the humility, the kindness and other qualities that are actually worth admiring. Let these inspire you. Think about those that inspire you, those that encourage and influence you positively. Spend time thinking about these things instead. We can all use these comparisons to continue to grow and develop positively.

From all of us at Phase Trust, we want to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Meg Bassi
Targeted Support Worker