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.