The Comparison Trap

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

I recite this quote to myself almost daily, try to remind myself of it when I’m scrolling through social media, and maybe perhaps should get it tattooed on my forehead so I can see it every time I look in the mirror. Because, the thing is, I compare myself all the time. To the person passing me on the running trail, to the writer who just published a book, to the woman on social media who seems to amass likes and followers every second. I compare, compare, compare. And then, because this comparison is also rife with judgment, I fall, fall, fall into defeat, or worse, self pity.

I notice that this happens often when I’m feeling a certain kind of discontent in my own life, or with my own efforts. When I’m on my way but feeling uncertain, or trudging along but struggling, the feeling inevitably crops up- “how do I measure up?” 

It is so easy to look at the person across from you, the person you don’t know at all, and make a snap judgment about where they are in life compared to you. It is so easy to make hundreds of assumptions every minute- and then to take it all so personally you end up feeling drastically inferior.

There are times I go out for a run and my legs feel heavy, like someone came along and filled them with sand while I slept. It’s an effort to put one foot in front of the other, to keep my breath consistent. And then, some gazelle effortlessly glides past me looking fresh and upbeat. My face turns a darker shade of red than it already is and I spew a thousand hateful thoughts her direction. And you know what happens to me? My legs get heavier, my breath gets more labored. The story I just made up about her in relation to me makes everything so much worse for me.

I can hear you asking- but what about when you feel good about the comparison you’re making? I get it; sometimes I compare to feel superior too. I compare because I am in a good place and want to prove to myself that’s it’s especially awesome because it’s also ahead of everyone else. For those moments, I feel really good about myself. But what happens when you are feeling great about those two-hundred likes you have (because Julie only has 50 from a picture she posted at the same time, ha!), and then you come across Jim’s post and he has 400 hundred likes?

Fall, fall, fall. Fall into the nagging feeling that you just proved yourself right- you’re not good enough. Fall into despair, into maybe wanting to give up this endeavor totally. Fall away from who you are and what you have to offer because you’re too busy focusing on the academy award someone else is holding.

The thing is, comparison can make you feel good about yourself, but how long does that last? When you derive your self-worth based on what others are or aren’t doing in relation to you, I promise you you’re setting yourself up for a self-worth roller coaster ride.

It is easy to fall into the comparison trap. And sometimes it feels really good. But no matter what, no matter how hard you wish you were that fitness instructor with the six-pack or that travel blogger in Bali, engaging in a parade of self-misery will not make it happen. The only way those things will happen is if you focus on yourself, look at what you have to offer, and do your own work to get there.


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