Comparison is the thief of all joy. I’m certain you’ve all heard that quote before. Quotes are funny things, aren’t they? Some feel like codswallop and others stop you in your tracks. To me, this quote has the latter effect. I’m certain that comparison is the thief of all joy.
In my journey through life so far I’ve become somewhat of a master at comparing myself. If I was going to get an A+ in any of the arts it would be this one. I know that comparison has been in my nature since I was very young but in all that time I can’t recall anything good that has come from it. Sure, I can now find positives in comparison (which I’ll talk about further down) but in the end, I always realise that after I’ve compared myself to someone else I’m left feeling inadequate.
From the moment I went to school, I was forever comparing myself to those around me and when I hit those turmoil teenage years it only became more prevalent.
When I reflect back on those years at school, college and even university it was definitely the more superficial aspects of life that bogged me down. Comparing myself to other girls in every single way. Weight, hair colour, style, popularity. You know, all the things that 15-year-old girls think are the be-all and end-all of life. When I started university at 21 I’ll admit I was a little better but my comparison was certainly not cured.
I do believe that society and social media have a huge part to play in the way we compare ourselves to others but comparison was around long before social media even existed. Facebook barely existed when I was at school and Instagram wasn’t around. I honestly have no idea how my mental health would’ve been if we did have access to those things and for that, I can only be thankful.
But as teenage girls back then all we had to do was look around to feel like someone else is or has it better than us.
The art of comparison leaves us feeling like we need to change ourselves. We feel as if the human beings we are right now simply isn’t good enough and that’s where comparison is so damaging to our sense of self.
I believe that comparison is the thief of all joy because comparison has us questioning ourselves over and over again. But here’s the thing, how we value and treat ourselves is the only thing in the world we have control over.
As a nurse, I see comparison all the time. I see student nurses comparing themselves to nurses who’ve been on the job for years. I see the first year comparing herself to the student about to graduate. I see new nurses comparing themselves to nurses who have been on that unit for over fifteen years. Comparison is everywhere in nursing and not just in junior staff either. I know that matrons compare themselves to their peers, we are all guilty of it and it’s damaging us all. Imagine if we lived in a world where we were confident and secure in ourselves that we didn’t feel the need to compare ourselves to our neighbour?
That’s the society I’d like to live.
So how can we combat comparison or at least take something positive from it? Well, I’ve been searching for ways that I can do just that. As I grow to love myself more and more I find that I compare myself less and less but it’s been a journey. I still compare myself to others every now and again and when I feel it cropping it up I go through this process. It really helps me lean into why I’m comparing myself and what I can learn from it:
1) I get specific on details. What is it about that person/thing I’m focusing on? Is it appearance, job, personality? I get down to the nitty-gritty and understand exactly where that comparison is coming from.
For example, I might compare myself to someone really into fitness and I might start wishing how I looked like they did. I ask myself if it’s really their body that I’m comparing myself to or is it their motivation? Our reason for comparison is often so much more than what’s obvious.
2) I ask myself why. Is it because I feel like you’re not doing enough, not following the linear line that society or that I’ve not got it together. Or Is it because I think if I had what they have I’ll suddenly be successful? By thinking about why you can identify if this comparison is serious and relates to your life not.
For example, I might compare the amount of money I have to someone else. Okay so they might be a millionaire but would I really want to be in the public eye 24/7? Probably not.
3) How do those things that you’re comparing relate to me? How does that thing compare to my core values? In everything that I do I come back to my core values and make my decisions based on how they do or don’t align with those values.
I usually just go over these questions in my head but I used to write them down.
Comparison is the thief of all joy but we can learn from it too. If you find that you compare yourself to others a lot then spend some time going through these prompts and see what shows up. If you’d like to learn more about how you can start comparing yourself to others less (especially as a nurse) then I did a whole podcast episode on comparison which you can listen to here and make sure you check out Lucy Sheridan on Instagram, she is literally the comparison queen!
And remember, you are good enough, right here right now, exactly as you are.
I hope you enjoyed this post,