Comparison

Comparison

I was robbed last week.

It was mid-afternoon and I was working on my computer from home, the dogs on the floor nearby and a cup of coffee in hand. I had just finished a great call with a client; we had been working on taking action to move their business forward for a few months now and there had been a huge breakthrough. I felt awesome. Gratitude for what I get to do, appreciation for my colleague who introduced us, pride for my client who has overcome some challenges. And then it happened…. in a flash of a moment, I opened up my browser. I clicked on a link a friend shared and then…it was all gone.

I saw a picture of a friend receiving an award and my heart shifted from joy to envy. When I saw his accolades and everyone congratulating him, my confidence, which moments before had been high, plummeted. I read about how he had been recognized in the community and suddenly no longer was I thinking about how grateful I was for my clients and my team, but I was thinking, “Why isn’t that me?” All the gratitude I had been focused on just moments before was gone.

You see I struggle with comparison, and I think we all do to an extent. Maybe you can relate to that feeling. When, at a moment’s notice, your mood shifts for the worse.

I’ve been talking a lot, both with my wife and with my clients, lately about a simple idea, that comparison is the thief of joy. I could even say that this is my theme for this year. Not allowing myself to be robbed of the joy in my life by comparing myself to others.

I think it’s hard to fight. Because as human beings, it’s natural that we want recognition, acceptance, love, support, and to be liked and appreciated. But as imperfect beings living in an imperfect world, it’s also natural that these positive desires can be warped by the “picture perfect” world we see online.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

In the book, UnSelfie by Dr. Michele Borba, she outlines a few concepts for creating empathy in our kids amidst the challenges of living in an increasingly online world. She talks about how kids are spending more and more time on social media, constantly seeking external and immediate praise, condemning others, and becoming more self-absorbed. She says,

Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands.”

The key to this is the piece that when we focus on ourselves as we compare to others, our problems seem bigger, our light shines a bit less bright, and our dreams are less important. When we focus on others in celebrating them, our world expands.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

So if you are still reading this, chances are you’ve had a similar moment recently. It could have been comparing yourself to someone else at work for their success and your lack thereof. Or maybe it was any of the other areas in which we do this to ourselves: comparing houses, income, cars, kids, jobs, titles, education, opportunity, etc. We look at someone else and let their situation take away from the gratitude we should have for our own.

Raise your hand if you hate how much you can beat yourself up over comparison. Is it just me?

A colleague of mine recently shared a thought that I really appreciated about how we react to things. He was teaching on how our beliefs and responses are just programmed habits; almost like the code on a computer program, if you will. What stood out to me was: “The program has been corrupted. You need to reprogram beliefs and responses to serve the world you want to see.”

So then the next time you catch yourself in a moment of comparison, when you’ve been robbed of your joy, I’ll challenge you to do three things that have helped me.

  • Recognize that you are comparing yourself in that moment. Recognize that self-defeating comparison is a programmed habit and this is the first step to breaking it.
  • Stop the train of thoughts by finding gratitude in what you do have. There will always be someone who has more, does more, makes more, seems to be more. But you’ve been blessed with what you do have. Find gratitude by writing down five things you are grateful for right now.
  • Transform the negative energy into positive energy by seeking to find a sincere appreciation for the other person. Congratulate them and really mean it! You don’t know their story and what it means to them to be where they are. Cheer them on! You’ll find that it’s hard to stay negative when you are sharing joy with others.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

This is a work in progress for me and I know it will be for many others as well. But I hope you can find comfort in knowing that you are not alone when you feel those thoughts and in your efforts to change them.

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