Unpacking Comparison, and How It Actually Steals Your Joy

Oh, comparison. You never seem to go away, do you? Let's get one thing straight: life in your 20s is HARD, am I right? Sometimes I wish I'd been given fair warning of this when I graduated college and entered the real world. That things wouldn't be as cookie-cutter as they once were and that our paths are much less structured than we were used to growing up.

As I've entered the latter end of my 20s, I've been journaling more and taking personal inventory of the lessons that have shaped me, empowered me, and challenged me to become a better and more self-aware version of me; the version I want to be and hope my future children would be proud of. In doing so, one of the biggest lessons has been unpacking the Pandora's box that encompasses comparison in all its glory.

We've all been there, right? You're scrolling through Instagram, having a perfectly content day already, when suddenly you realize Rachel got the job you were chasing after for a year. Sammi's engaged and you're still single. You weren't invited to Carolyn's party. All your friends are there. No one called to even see if you were coming . . . Does this inner monologue sound familiar?

Our minds have a way of running down these intricate rabbit holes the second we feel a threat to our ego.

The scenario can play out differently, too. Have you ever gotten off social media and finally put your phone down and realized that you just feel empty? All that Kardashian stalking and realizing your 18-year-old body never looked and never will look like Kylie Jenner's. Or something to the effect of, "It's not like I even wanted a new car, but Kathy just got one and is posting it all over Instagram and now I feel like I need one."

All of this brings me to the old adage you've probably heard time and time again: "comparison is the thief of joy." I've struggled with the joy-depleting repercussions of comparison for so long and, to be honest, have been victim to all of the above scenarios. After a while I got so sick of it that I did some soul searching and dug into the root of this issue further.

Comparison on its own is not the root of the joy depletion. In fact, comparison on a straightforward level is pretty objective. I can compare that my friend is a size 7 shoe, but I am a size 9.5. No real emotions stirred there. It's when you dig into what comparison is rooted in that you can tackle exactly WHAT is depleting your joy. I like to call it the "three Es" — envy, expectations, and entitlement.

  • Envy: when we become jealous of what someone else has and start coveting it.
  • Expectations: when we let them get the best of us and begin comparing (I did "X" for my best friend's birthday, but she only did "Y").
  • Entitlement: when our pride puffs up and clouds our mentality with what we think we deserve. These are all the root of the joy loss that comparison brings.

I began to check myself each time the comparison reared its ugly head in my emotions and realized that every single time, the emotion was rooted in one of the three Es. The key lesson here is first identifying which E it is and then getting outside your own head by uprooting the pride that our current mindset is keeping us in. We can't do it on our own.

When you're stuck in the depths of feeling joy-depleted, it's hard to snap out of it. For me, personally, this is where my faith in large part has played the biggest role in helping me snap back. I've found so much freedom in being myself and accepting myself first. Once you come to terms with that, the weight of caring so much about other people's actions or reactions toward you starts not to feel as heavy.

You begin to stop looking to social media for that affirmation or for what you don't have and begin looking outward to see how you can impart generosity and love to others who need it.

We can surrender the expectations and entitlement for good and realize just how gifted, valued, and treasured we are. I think there is so much beauty that comes in that self-discovery of our worth, that ultimately leads to others seeing it in you, too. You begin to stop looking to social media for that affirmation or for what you don't have and begin looking outward to see how you can impart generosity and love to others who need it.

We live in such trying times. We're faced with a corrupt government, scandalous leaders, cyberbullies, terrorists . . . the list goes on. In the midst of all this evil, I don't want to let a construct like comparison cloud my joy and ultimately my potential for unlocking my passions.

So my challenge to you is to try something difficult that's outside your wheelhouse. Maybe it's detoxing social media for a while, maybe it's giving way less weight to things like followers or "likes." Prioritize time to reflect on your gifts and strengths. What makes you unique and authentic? If it's gotten lost in the chaos of life, take the time to find that one thing again and hold tight. Don't compromise who you are at your core. And finally, "let go of who you think you need to be and just be who you actually are." I promise you'll start walking with more pep in your step because of how freeing living that truth out actually is.