The Comparison Trap

“Comparison is the thief of joy”- unknown. 

This is LITERALLY {yes, literally} one of my favorite quotes. Definitely top 5. It has both given me wisdom and humbled me. And it is a quote I share as often as I can. It also leads to the heart of the comparison trap.

A trap that is so present, yet hidden or unspoken in our culture. A trap that is not based in reality.  Have you experienced it before? 

It’s an experience that many of us have experienced before, myself included, and that is home to many complexities. Because comparison is a two sided coin. It does not simply affect you ONLY when you compare yourself to others, but also when you are on the opposite end of comparison. When you cannot be happy for others successes AND when others can not be happy for your success or accomplishments. It destroys. Destroys confidence. Destroys relationships. Destroys joy. 

It’s like quick sand {side note: definitely thought quick sand would be more of an issue as I got older- and yet, not once have I EVER experienced it in real life🤷‍♀️}. You slowly get stuck- without even realizing it. And then, when it’s too late, you realize- you’re trapped. Debilitated.  

On the one side- we can be doing really well. Have the dream job. Have the degrees and certifications. Have the house and the kids and the life everyone dreams of. The ability to take a vacation every now and then. Have friends that are unmatched and present and supportive when you need them.  The positive aspects of your life that you’re happy with. Then comes the trap – COMPARISON. 

In our culture we have more opportunities to compare than ever before: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter…the list goes on and on.

We suddenly become unsatisfied with what was once perfect in our lives. “Yeah, I’m excited I just got my dream job! But she’s making more money than me”. “Yeah, I have my dream house, but he has an extra room in his house that I don’t have”.  Now you’re suddenly unsatisfied with your previous definition of “perfect” in a split moment. Ever been there before? 

And comparison doesn’t just affect you- It can affect those around you. The other side of the coin.  The same way other’s comparing themselves can affect you. It happens when others are jealous of your accomplishments instead of praising you. Jealous of your opportunities, instead of being excited with you. Jealous of your innate abilities instead of building you up. And this takes a toll. It makes you become dull, so you don’t outshine them in any way. Ever been there before too? 

Those are the two sides. The sides that cripple and debilitate and destroy. 

So now what. I know I have fallen victim to this trap- how do we get out of it? 

GRATITUDE. A simple word, and sometimes difficult task. We pay attention to what we are grateful for- for both ourselves AND our loved ones in our tribe. 

Because when you compare, you will always fall short. There will always be someone bigger, better, richer, smarter, prettier, more talented than us – you name it. While allowing that knowledge to gently nudge us to strive for our best – we cannot let it consume us with jealousy. But ultimately, it breaks down to being comfortable in our skin, and about being content and grateful for what we have. Focusing on what we have instead of what we don’t have. The gifts and abilities we are able to do, instead of our inabilities. 

If we’re going to dive a little deeper, some self inspection may be necessary as well. If we cannot be happy for someone else – we may not be happy with ourselves or our situation. And that is a place to explore as well.

Here is the reality of life. Nothing is ever “fair”. There will be moments when you shine and moments where you celebrate your tribe shining. Each taking your moment in the spot light, while not living there forever.

We must become intentional about being grateful for our accomplishments AND grateful for the successes of our loved ones in our tribe. And celebrate our successes together. 

You have a choice- your choice determines the trap. You can be happy for others or you can be jealous. You can choose to want more or you can choose to be grateful for what you have. What choice are you going to make today?

*The information contained herein is not therapeutic advice nor a substitute for therapy. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any mental health problem. If you are located within the United States and you need emergency assistance please call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. If you are located within Colorado you may also call the Colorado Crisis Line at 844-493-TALK (8255).

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