The Thief of Joy: Comparison

[Originally posted 4/8/2018]

I’ve taken a bit of a hiatus because I’ve been reflecting on the purpose of all this (but I’m also not sure if you can technically take a hiatus if you’ve only just started).  I haven’t forgotten, and I still want to create a life for myself full of intention, but maybe I was trying to push for something that wasn’t as authentic as I truly thought it was.

Truth be told, I’m not a minimalist. I’d like to have the personality or lifestyle to achieve that, but I like a little too much flair to be fully content with what we’ve come to know as “minimalism.” I like art and color and flexibility and freshness. Part of those things are what have impacted my consumerism, but part of those things are also what impact my unique style and taste. I don’t feel totally comfortable ignoring that in favor of chasing after a lifestyle I am fascinated by on Instagram.

All that being said, I’ve been mulling over the concept of comparison for the last two to three weeks. Really reflecting on how I see it in my life, the lives of others, and especially in the high-light reels we can all create on social media if we so choose. As good ole Teddy Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” He was really on to something. 

Comparison can rob you of joy, individuality, purpose, and friendship. It’s not always inherently malicious to compare yourself to others, but we’ve all experienced times, likely as both the victim and culprit, when it has been. Do you know that friend/coworker/acquaintance who is a compulsive one-upper? Who is always trying to look or make themselves feel better than you are, often at your expense? First of all, it’s likely because they have low self-esteem and see you as a “threat”—whether they realize it or not. Sort of a weird compliment? Second of all, if this comparative behavior becomes especially pervasive within your relationship, maybe there’s a need for you to intentionally address it and/or remove yourself from the situation. That doesn’t mean it needs to get ugly. Part of being an adult means handling situations with integrity and making hard decisions (adulting can really stink). That may even mean putting yourself in their shoes, showing them some grace, and perhaps reflecting on times when you have been guilty of the same behavior.

Now, let’s dig further into the personally convicting stuff. Where do you find yourself battling comparison? I’m personally often unaware when I’m struggling with comparison. I’m not what one would probably classify as an overly “jealous” person, but it manifests itself in other, equally sinful ways. For example, I may be so intimidated by someone I admire that I convince myself I’m not good enough to be their friend. Total missed opportunity to befriend someone I could have a lot in common with and could learn from.

Another example of a different way comparison manifests for me is comparing myself to bloggers or beautiful Instagram models I admire. They have great content, impeccable outfits, dreamy travel destinations, perfect teeth, seemingly bottomless bank accounts, and for some reason that causes me to feel some intense discontentment with my current circumstances. Comparing myself to them can result in ugly patterns of striving, overspending, an ungrateful attitude, unnecessary stress, and even thoughts like, “I bet I work way harder and deserve those things more than she does. Why can’t that be me?” Gross. That is some straight-up joy robbery.

I have so much to be grateful for, and I don’t need to be anyone but myself. However, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to be a better version of myself. That takes hard work, intentional decisions, and a positive attitude. I often need a reminder that comparing myself to others is not a productive use of time, but admiring others can be a great source of inspiration. Other’s successes don’t equal my failures, but they may if I allow myself to be overcome by comparison.

As I mentioned, I’ve been mulling all of this over for weeks now, and I want to slightly alter my approach to this blogging thing. I don’t aspire to be a full-on minimalist. I’m not even sure I want to make a standard capsule wardrobe. I don’t want to try to fit a square peg in a round hole, so to speak. Discipline is great, but I’m not one who does well with rigidity.

I do want to be more intentional with my purchases and lifestyle, which I believe aligns more with my personality. I’m not a minimalist blogger or a person who thrives with a structured capsule wardrobe. I do, however, admire those who are. I plan to continue to adopt many of their strategies and beliefs, but I’ve also come to terms with the fact that maybe what I’m best at is helping others find their personal style, best utilize what they have, and develop strategies for intentional consumerism. No strict rules/guidelines, just intentionality. Maybe I aspire to be an intentionalist?