Is Comparison Really the Thief of Joy?

I remember the first time I ever heard the phrase, 'Comparison is the thief of joy.' This is a phrase coined by Teddy Roosevelt and seems to have stuck since then.


Research shows that 10% of our daily thoughts are attributed to making some kind of comparison, which is a significant amount of time spent in this frame of mind. Comparison is a tricky thing, because on one hand, it can be extremely damaging to our mental health and self-esteem, and on the other it can promote more of a drive and pursuit for greatness.


But I'm sure you'll agree that there is a verrrrrryyyy fine line between these two.


So let's talk about it.


Research suggests that what we compare and the way we make comparisons to ourselves contributes to a biased perspective of our own skills and characteristics. For example, if I'm comparing myself to the strongest person I know, I am more likely to think that I'm not strong at all. Now, this isn't necessarily a true about me, but because I chose to compare myself in this way, my perspective is tainted. This naturally leads to feelings of doubt, low self-worth, and insecurity.


Comparison in this sense is an omnipotent, detrimental mindset that can strip away our joy as we begin to determine our worth based on how we measure up to others.


Every flower blooms at its own pace, just as every human is uniquely qualified for his or her purpose here on earth.


So what does healthy comparison look like?


Studies suggest that evaluating yourself to a target in effort to push yourself in a constructive, motivational way can be a great way to initiate growth and progress. One must move forward not in attempt to become that target / person but use that target / person as inspiration to become a better version of oneself.


Again, very fine line.


Comparison can be hard to grapple with, and it can definitely seize joy if we're not careful. Here are some tips for protecting yourself against unhealthy comparison:


  1. Notice your triggers - What are you most often comparing yourself to, and why are those thoughts so present?

  2. Remind yourself that you never see the full story. You can't compare your journey to someone else's. Your 'right now' is very different from another's.

  3. Be grateful for the good in your life and focus on the positive.

  4. Recognize your unique skills, characteristics, and potential.

  5. Remember that you have your own race to run.


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