Comparison is the thief of joy

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” I’m sure most of us have heard those words at some point in our lives and although it may sound like a cliché, there’s a lot of truth to it.

In this issue of the Pulse, we talk about what comparison is, why we compare ourselves and how to limit the amount of time we spend comparing ourselves to others.

What is comparison? 

Comparison is the act of examining two or more items (or in this case, people) to establish similarities and dissimilarities.

As humans, we often compare ourselves to the people we surround ourselves with or look up to. This can be friends, family, coworkers, or public figures. In fact, some studies estimate that as much as 10% of our thoughts are comparisons of some type.  

Why do we compare ourselves? 

It’s human nature to compare ourselves to other people. As psychologist Pia Linden says, “Humans are social animals’ and our ancestors have always lived and survived in groups. Comparing yourself to others serves as an orientation to see where we stand in a group and whether we need to take some action to improve our performance or position.”

However, too much of anything can be a bad thing, including comparison. So how do we limit it? 

Consider your differences

Whenever you start comparing yourself to other people, stop to think for a minute about the differences between you and the person you are comparing yourself to. No two people are completely alike.

For example, think about one of your coworkers. Although you may have similar roles within the company you’re at now, things like your education, previous work experience and skillset will vary in some way, shape or form. You also more than likely had different upbringings and advantages that were given to you throughout your life.

Consider the ups and downs  

In today’s world, with social media ever present in our lives, we are often bombarded with people’s “ups”, from engagements and growing families to meeting sales goals and job promotions. However, we often aren’t privy to each other’s “downs”, such as being passed over for a job promotion or being told no by a cold call. Without seeing both the ups and downs, we’re giving ourselves a completely unrealistic comparison to hold ourselves to.  

Focus on self-improvement

Now that we discussed the differences that may exist between the person you are comparing yourself to and the “downs” you probably don’t see, I think it’s accurate to say that the only person it’s fair for you to compare yourself to is yourself. Instead of comparing yourself to someone else with, compare the present you to past you and use how far you have come to motivate you to keep going and keep improving year over year.  

In conclusion…

Make your past self your competition, not others around you. Comparing yourself to others is like comparing apples to oranges and is a disservice to yourself.