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Comparison Poisons Joy

Updated: Nov 1, 2023

I'll never forget my dad sitting me down when I was 23 years old. I was launching into life, and like he had done on every large milestone before this one, we sat down to have an intentional chat.


"Don't try to keep up with the Joneses. No matter what you do, someone will have a bigger house, a better job, or better clothes. Do your own thing, don't worry about them, and you will be happy."


It was something I already knew, but having my dad say it to me with such resolution really helped it stick.


We compare ourselves and our lives to others' in so many ways.


Have you ever said or thought these things?


"Why can't my kid be as polite as my friend's kid?"


"If we had a pool like the Smith's, our family would have more fun together."


"I should've gone into business like Mark. I would have so much more money by now."


"I wish my hair was thicker."


"It's too hot. I wish I had more vacation time so we could go somewhere cooler."


"I'm such a dummy. Even a fifth grader would know the answer to that question."


All of these statements have their roots in comparison and cause emotions like envy, anger, sadness, despair, loneliness, and shame.


Everyone has moments where they compare themselves to others. I would argue that it is a bigger beast to tame these days because we are constantly inundated with information. Through the internet, social media, and 24 hour news cycles, we have access on our phones to the stories, photos, and lives of millions of others; whereas just 30 years ago we only knew about the people we interacted with in person, read about, or saw on the six o'clock news.


Comparison poisons joy because we are left feeling defeated, thinking that we are not good enough, and questioning our own capacity for happiness.


The anecdote to comparison is gratitude. It is as simple as being thankful for the many blessings in your life daily.


I often start each morning with asking myself what I am grateful for and say a prayer of thanks for those things.


I have fun with it by saying things like "I'm grateful sloths have silly little faces," or more seriously, "Thank you, God, for making me tender-hearted." I like to challenge myself to come up with something different each day.


Here are some gratitude anecdotes to the previously mentioned statements. Notice how the sensations in your body change when you read the comparison statement vs. the gratitude statement.


"Why can't my kid be as polite as my friend's kid?"

"I love that my kid has such a zest for life."


"If we had a pool like the Smith's, our family would have more fun together."

"I'm going to plan a family game night tonight. I'm so thankful that my family enjoys spending time together."


"I should've gone into business like Mark. I would have so much more money by now."

"I am grateful to be doing something I love."


"I wish my hair was thicker."

"I'm grateful that my hair dries quickly."


"It's too hot. I wish I had more vacation time so we could go somewhere cooler."

"Thank you, God, for air conditioning!"


"I'm such a dummy. That fifth grader knows more about science than me."

"Wow that kid is smart! Our future is in good hands."


Get curious this week: when you observe yourself getting poisoned by comparison, bring gratitude into the picture. Notice how you feel.








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