Is comparison always harmful?

^^ Photo from one of my favorite artists. ^^

For me, there is a fine, almost invisible, tripwire between admiration and jealously. Often times I don’t even know I’ve crossed between the two until I find myself muttering on the sidewalk such statements as “But she’s so cool and friendly and successful and focused, and I’m so … *waves arms in the air like a deranged mime or cat being forced into a bath.* When it comes to comparing my insides to other’s outsides, rarely do I come out on top. But after reading a recent piece from Inthefrow, I couldn’t help but wonder, is comparison always a bad thing?

Now, we could talk forever about why it’s so important to not let comparison rule your life. After all, every single person is unique and therefore their dreams/ideas of success/purposes are also unique (a thought that overwhelmed me with it’s majesty at yoga yesterday). While we share many similarities to our loved ones and those that inspire us, we are truly only able to compare ourselves to ourselves. Easier said than done though, right?

This year I’ve been working on building up the habit of taking a step back when moments of jealousy bubble up in the pit of my stomach and discovering their root cause. Why am I jealous of friends applying to masters programs when I know I don’t want to go back to school? Because it feels like they have a specific next direction they’re moving towards. Why am I getting persnickety following this influencer on social media who I don’t even know in real life? Because they always seem to be doing something and going somewhere and I was too tired tonight to do anything but snooze on my couch. And despite being lucky enough to have so many wonderful humans in my life, why do I still fear that I lack the ability to make new friends as an adult? Because putting myself out there feels vulnerable and a bit scary. 

My jealousy finds its way towards other’s bylines, their ingrained morning routines, and their ability to work on many creative projects at once. Sometimes it even points me towards things that seem glamorous — like having a jam packed social calendar, constant travel plans, more friend groups than there are hours in the day. But the thing I’ve come to learn most about jealousy is that it’s not really about the other person. Jealousy and comparison are more like switchboards sending me messages about my own life.

It is taking a bit of unlearning and overthinking to undo the natural habit of letting comparison run the show. But in dissecting the roots of this emotion, I’m attempting to lean into the moments when it can be of value and shut down the moments when it’s only doing harm.

In many instances, jealousy can be a signal to my brain that I’m spending too much time on social media, absorbing people’s highlight reels and feeling more and more critical of my own life. Or it’s a signals there is something in someone’s life that I really love and admire and want to make a part of my own life, and instead of using it as inspiration, am convinced I could never achieve it.

But this year, I began to truly understand that jealousy thrives off of the idea that there is only a limited amount of success/love/joy/happiness to go around. Comparison makes us believe that one person’s success means that there is less opportunity for everyone else — which just isn’t true. When someone is thriving, that inspires others to thrive — even if it’s in a completely different way than what I’m doing. Surrounding myself with people who are inspiring and serious life goals for me, lends the opportunity to absorb their creative, passionate, intentional energy. It opens up my eyes to all the possible ways a life can be lived, and at the end of the day, if all these other people can achieve their dreams, why can’t I?

So while jealousy and comparison are a natural state in which I find myself from time to time, I’m learning with a little intention and mental unpacking, it’s possible to step back over the trip wire and plant myself solidly within the landscape of admiration — cheering on my loved ones and mentors without the hesitation that their success is a reflection of me.

^^ Shared by one of my favorite Instagrams Wearenotreallystrangers. For all the feels, give them a follow. ^^

One thought on “Is comparison always harmful?

  1. Scott December 5, 2019 / 3:24 pm

    Very interesting train of thought. I’ve never had the curse of living by comparison. You always want to fit in, but not be a copy of someone else. My mantra has been … the best I can do, others might do better, but I’m me.
    Another thought promoting writing. Thank you. Good luck


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