Comparison is the thief of joy

September 10, 2013 in Career,Life,Philosophy,Travel

Comparison is the thief of joy. 

It’s one of those things that you know, you KNOW, even though you can’t quite stop comparing yourself to your friends and your neighbors and your co-workers and bloggers and the people you follow on Instagram (even when you’re not even sure how they got in your feed).

It’s a mantra I repeat to myself when I find myself feeling inundated with failure, with the sort of irrational fear that tiptoes its way into your mind and creeps into every limb. It’s the second-guessing of signing paying a broker’s fee and signing another year-long lease, the wondering of whether those dreams of a New Zealand road trip or an extended South American backpacking trip will ever come to fruition.  It’s the wistful moment when I see another engagement/wedding/pregnancy announcement: the sincerest of well wishes but also crossing your fingers that one day the tables will turn.

I’m good at living in the moment, but not in the present. I can fully savor the sunshine on my face, the flakiness of a buttery croissant, the smell of my favorite candle burning before bed. But I’ve always had a problem with being here, instead of looking forward to the day when I’m there. I spent most of high school wishing I was a senior, senior year wishing I was in college, college wishing I was grown-up, and even as a grown-up, wishing I was MORE of a grown-up (you know, the type with regular 401K contributions and a food processor and an entire bedroom set that didn’t come from Ikea).

Now I compare my (just-moved-into) apartment (that has a dishwasher! A washing machine! A courtyard!) with ones that boast a better view, a better rooftop, the luxury amenities that I can only dream of. And thanks to Pinterest and Apartment Therapy, my feelings of inadequacy don’t just stop at my friends’ apartments—those people who are roughly in my city, in my age range, my career bracket, at the top end of my budget. This same logic applies to my wardrobe, my friendships, my relationships, my gizmos and gadgets.

Sometimes I wonder how much my Internet life affects my tendency to compare, to wish for more or better or simply different. Amidst the buzzwords and hashtags, articles claim that FOMO has become a real, anxiety-producing phenomenon while YOLO encourages a devil-may-care short-sighted recklessness (but only if it can be captured on Instagram). Whether we’re travel bloggers or magazine writers or professional photographers or simply on vacation, those delicious little moments of relaxation—the pedicured toes in a hammock, the legs buried in the sand, the serenity atop a mountain or perhaps just the good cup of coffee next to a glossy magazine—don’t seem to count unless they’ve been captured, filtered and shared with a pithy caption.

I’m as guilty of it as anyone, perhaps even worse. I laugh it off as I try different angles as my food gets cold or as I stop without warning in the middle of a crowded sidewalk, justifying my quest for “the perfect shot” as acceptable because of my blog or my job or simply because it’s what I want.

Last week, we went on a bike ride along the waterfront at dusk and the sky was simply ablaze. Oranges and pink and purple, the clouds and hues shifted with a grace that can’t be described to do it justice. In that moment, I was simply grateful that I was outside to enjoy it. I wasn’t worried about sharing it with anyone other than who I was with, I wasn’t thinking about how to capture it: I was just looking up with awe.

It’s in those moments that I realize how truly comparison is the thief of joy, how much I allow those evaluations to cloud my mind and ruin my day. You don’t need a penthouse to enjoy the sunset: you simply need to look at the sky.

Note: this post was inspired by You Can’t Have It All, but You Can Have Cake.

  • What a beautiful post. And I have to say, I feel like there are a lot of people out there who look at your Instagram and feel the same way about you. 🙂 Good luck with this inner battle and being happy where you are now!

  • That last sentence is so inspiring 🙂 Great post! x

  • Beautiful post. This saying has always really resonated with me, but I must admit that I find it hard to keep in mind sometimes – especially when scrolling through Instagram!

  • Lauren @BonVoyageLauren

    Really loved reading this post, especially the last beautiful sentence. I need to bookmark this and read at least once a month as an important reminder.

    Happy travels 🙂

  • Oh girl, I can relate to this so much. My favorite quote on the topic: “The grass isn’t greener on the other side; the grass is greener where you water it.” Amen? Xo.

  • Love that last sentence, gorgeous! I suck at living in the present, because I’m so excited about the future. I’ve really stopped in the last year comparing myself to others and it feels so liberating!

  • Katherine Huff

    Absolutely beautiful! I needed this so badly this morning.

  • I so get this, and it’s something I regularly struggle with. Slowly, surely, we’ll figure it out.

  • Laura

    A lovely reminder for all of us, whether we’re traveling or settled. Facebook, twitter, pinterest, sometimes you just need to shut them off and remind yourself how good you’ve got it. I know I do. Thanks for sharing!

  • Beautifully written! Loved how you started and ended your post. Comparison is indeed the thief of joy. So many people are too caught up with comparing themselves against their peers such that they don’t realize that they are leading someone else’s life and not their own.

  • Kristina / le fabuleux destin

    So true Christine! Looking at all the beautiful pictures on the internet by photographers and very talented hobby photographers, I always end up comparing to what I do – and mostly I am frustrated that my pictures don’t look this beautiful, candid or whatever. I always want to be inspired by looking at other peoples work, but mostly it leaves me feeling a bit empty! Definitely need to work on that!
    And heck yes, I look at your pictures and dream of a life in glamorous NYC!!!!
    Kristina x

  • Anđela Ćenan

    :)) exactly… thank you for the reminder! 😉

  • Jessica Ann

    This is something I have been working on a lot lately. It’s not always easy but being aware of it can especially help in changing the route of your thoughts. Such a great post and reminder!

  • Well written! This is exactly why I took a break from Facebook for awhile. Even if you are living a great life and show be enjoying it, there’s always someone out there doing something that appears to be better. I think a lot of us don’t even realize we’re comparing ourselves. It’s almost a subconscious thing that occurs when we’re surrounded by so much social media.

  • The Wondernuts

    So true. You can’t enjoy what you have if you think the grass is greener somewhere else. It’s so easy to forget we have some pretty awesome things going on in our life, we just need to appreciate it.

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  • dee

    Oh goodness. I know I am probably a week late but it’s like you’ve gone into my head and written out everything I’ve been feeling for the past year ( or two or maybe even more) or so. This weekend has been particularly rough so I’ve had to make a deal with myself to stay off social media for awhile because everything you’ve written is so hauntingly true.

  • camorose

    Thank you! I try to remember that social media tends to be the “highlight reel” of real life–but it’s still easy to get discouraged by everyone else’s successes–even when you have plenty of your own!

  • camorose

    Thank you! 🙂

  • camorose

    Always easier said that done–I love that quote but I don’t apply it nearly as much as I should.

  • camorose

    I think I need to do the same thing–so easy to forget!

  • camorose

    Love that. xo

  • camorose

    I need to get back to my 2012 resolution of not saying “I’m jealous”–and meaning it!

  • camorose

    So glad you found it 🙂

  • camorose

    A little bit at a time 🙂

  • camorose

    SO TRUE!

  • camorose

    Thank you–and very well said yourself!

  • camorose

    Oh my gosh TELL ME ABOUT IT! Working in the photography space with so many talented people leaves me feeling so defeated–a huge part of why I haven’t taken my camera out recently. So hard to be inspired and not discouraged sometimes by the level of talent in the world!

  • camorose

    Yay! 🙂

  • camorose

    Glad you enjoyed it! Always easier said than done.

  • camorose

    So true–I wish I could take a break, but it’s just not feasible with my job for more than weekend!

  • camorose

    Exactly!

  • camorose

    So glad you found it when you needed it–you’re certainly not the only one who feels that way!

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  • Jessica Rapana

    Loved this Christine!! I can SO relate to doing that – great quote though! X

  • camorose

    Such an important thing to remember!

  • Erin Jones

    How lovely and well said. I think for me when I’m travelling I’m always comparing my experience to others and wondering if I’m having as good a time as other people are who have done the same. This has reminded me that I should appreciate my experiences for what they are, not how they compare to others’ xx

  • camorose

    So glad you enjoyed it!

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  • BeKkah

    What is comparison is the theif of joy translated to french?

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